Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Hong Kong bans passenger flights from Indonesia over infection risks

Also, Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific has joined the ranks of international airlines who now require all aircrew to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Hong Kong will ban passenger flights from Indonesia from this Friday, estimating arrivals from that country as “extremely high risk” for Covid-19, Reuters is reporting.

The Hong Kong government said late yesterday it was suspending flights after the number of imported Covid-19 cases from Indonesia crossed thresholds set by the global financial hub.

The Chinese special administrative region has already banned arrivals from India, Nepal, Pakistan, and the Philippines, using a flight suspension rule triggered when there are five or more passengers who test positive for one of the Covid-19 variants on arrival, or 10 or more passengers found to have any strain of the disease while in quarantine.

Most of the city’s recent cases over the past month have been imported.

Hong Kong employs thousands of migrant workers from countries including Indonesia and the Philippines.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Hong Kong’s ban was temporary and that migrant workers affected by the new regulation should contact their employers and agents.

The BBC is reporting that Hong Kong’s biggest legacy airline Cathay Pacific has told its aircrew that they must be vaccinated if they want to keep flying.

The airline announced that, “After very careful consideration, we have now made the decision that all Hong Kong-based crew members must be vaccinated against Covid-19 by Aug 31, 2021.”

Management said it was “becoming clear that only fully vaccinated aircrew will be able to return without quarantine from most places” and this was causing complications in staff rostering because of the need to segregate vaccinated and non-vaccinated crew.

It said it could, in the short-term, accommodate those employees not able to take the vaccine but it “will review the future employment of those who are unable to become vaccinated to assess whether they can continue to be employed as aircrew”.

90% of the carrier’s pilots and 65% of its cabin crew have already been vaccinated or have appointments to receive the injection.

Like many international carriers, Cathay Pacific believes that for the global airline industry to recover, “vaccination is a critical component”.

The Washington Post reported as far back as February that airlines were starting to promote a new perk to bring passengers back nearly a year after the pandemic started: vaccinated pilots and flight attendants.

WaPo said that Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, had announced it was “the first airline in the world with 100% vaccinated crew on board”.

Not to be outdone, Singapore Airlines Group said its three carriers – Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot – would be among the first airlines in the world to operate flights with all pilots and cabin crew vaccinated.

Earlier this week, US carrier United Airlines said that from August only fully vaccinated pilots and cabin crew would be allowed to work on flights to high-risk destinations such as India, Brazil and Chile.

Ethiopian Airlines Group, Africa’s largest carrier, announced on Monday that it has started operating flights with fully vaccinated crews “to keep travellers safe in the pandemic”.

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