Two former Cathay Pacific flight attendants have been charged with violating Hong Kong’s broad pandemic preparedness rules.
The pair may face up to six months in prison and a heavy fine if found guilty.
Cathay Pacific fired the two flight attendants after it was discovered they were socializing in the community while infected with the highly transmissible COVID-19 Omicron form.
Cathay Pacific Chairman Patrick Healy said the airline is cooperating with authorities in both the criminal investigation and a separate examination into the business’s pandemic policy.
Healy claims that the airline followed Hong Kong’s quarantine regulations as written at the time.
The two flight attendants landed in Hong Kong from the United States on separate planes over the Christmas holiday. During the time they were supposed to be in self-isolation, one went to a restaurant and infected his father and another diner at a nearby table.
The second flight attendant went to two different pubs after leaving their residence to take a COVID-19 exam, as required by law. The ex-flight attendant was supposed to return home and stay away from other people until the COVID-19 test result was received.
Hong Kong is currently dealing with its first local epidemic in months, and authorities are scrambling to keep the virus from spreading further.
Hundreds of ‘close contacts’ of positive patients, including high-ranking officials, have been transferred to quarantine camps, and some social distancing regulations have been reinstated.
Local flight attendants are generally forced to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel after returning from an overseas destination because the country has some of the strictest border controls in the world.
However, the restrictions for cargo-only aircraft crews were more permissive, requiring only a few days of self-isolation at home.
On these cargo-only flights, Cathay Pacific was returning some flight attendants to Hong Kong, allowing them to avoid hotel quarantine.
Cathay Pacific’s pilots and flight attendants spent more than 73,000 nights in quarantine in 2021, despite this compromise.
Crew members stayed in quarantine motels for a total of 62,000 nights, with 1,000 crew members spending more than 11,000 nights at the notorious Penny’s Bay quarantine camp.
Police arrested the two ex-flight attendants on Monday, according to the Hong Kong government, and charged them with breaking Section 15(3) of the Prevention and Control of Disease Regulations (Cap. 599A).
“They have been released on bail,” the government said. “The cases will be mentioned at the Tuen Mun Magistrates’ Courts and the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts on February 9.”