Hong Kong police arrest two Cathay flight attendants accused of Covid rule breach

Hong Kong police have arrested and charged two former Cathay Pacific flight attendants over allegations they broke the city’s coronavirus rules.

The statement did not name the airline but the two – reportedly men aged 44 e 45 – were later confirmed by leader Carrie Lam as being former staff of the airline. Lam alleged on Tuesday “there is evidence showing they have violated [epidemic regulations]".

The announcement comes after Cathay Pacific said in January it had fired two aircrew who were suspected of breaching Covid-19 protocols.

Police said the pair had returned to Hong Kong from the US on 24 dicembre e 25 December and then “conducted unnecessary activities” during their home isolation period. They both later tested positive for the fast-spreading Omicron strain.

They have been released on bail with their case to be heard in separate courts on 9 febbraio. If convicted, they could face up to six months in prison and a fine of up to HK$5,000 ($642). They were discharged from hospital after treatment, according to local media.

Hong Kong is following mainland China’s zero-tolerance approach to control Covid-19 as the rest of the world shifts toward living with the coronavirus. tuttavia, unlike the mainland, the global financial hub is quite dependent on business travellers and imported goods.

Hong Kong’s flagship carrier has faced blame for the initial spread of Omicron into the community, with Lam singling out Cathay and launching two investigations into the company.

The Cathay chairman, Patrick Healy, said it was cooperating with the government on the inquiries, which focus on non-compliance with coronavirus rules and rostering of crew on to cargo flights meaning they did not have to undergo hotel quarantine. The two staff members who left their home quarantine were reportedly fired. Healy said the majority of Cathay staff had followed the rules and the strict quarantine under “unparalleled” circumstances.

The charges are the latest chapter in a troubled few years for Cathay, as it has navigated Hong Kong’s Covid-19 measures as well as changing politics. The punitive action against the airline has damaged morale as staff face job requirements unheard of just three years ago. L'anno scorso, Cathay staff spent a total of 200 years – 76,000 nights – in hotel quarantine or in Hong Kong’s government facility at Penny’s Bay.

Hong Kong has continually adjusted its quarantine rules for aircrew, dramatically tightening them after the Omicron outbreak in late December, leading the airline to cancel most of its planned passenger and cargo flights in January.

The airline had been struggling to staff many flights even before the rules were tightened, as some destinations relied on pilots volunteering to fly punishing rosters involving five weeks locked in hotel rooms. All staff are fully vaccinated.

With Reuters

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