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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Customers 'to suffer' from crew quarantine mandate

Consumers may eventually bear higher freight costs if the government further tightens control over air cargo crew, president of the Hong Kong Logistics Association Elsa Yuen May-yee said.
Her warning came after the government announced on Tuesday that starting yesterday, air cargo crew must quarantine for three days at a hotel before isolating at home. The announcement came after three Cathay Pacific aircrew members tested positive for Covid-19.

Aircrew previously had to isolate at home and could only go out for essential chores.

But during the three-day isolation of two crew members - among the three who tested positive - they met up and visited the Festival Walk shopping mall before they were diagnosed with Covid-19.

Speaking on a radio program yesterday, Yuen said the measure is acceptable as the public will have more confidence in aircrew if they undergo hotel quarantine.

But she said hotel quarantine arrangements have already impacted the logistics industry, which would be hit harder if the quarantine period was further lengthened.

Airlines also have to bear the costs of quarantine accommodation for aircrew.

Freight costs would increase, and "if the global pandemic situation cannot improve, I'm worried ... a cost increase of at least 30 percent will be passed on to customers."

Yuen also said around 10 percent of cargo crew are considering suspending their job due to the arrangement.

Chee Yiu-luen from the Hong Kong Aviation Staff Alliance said the new measure is acceptable and it won't "seriously" affect flights as pilots can leave their quarantine hotel early if they have another flight to serve. "The only difference is that home isolation can be more comfortable and convenient for aircrew," Chee said.

Infectious disease expert Joseph Tsang Kay-yan yesterday said authorities should have adopted such an arrangement earlier.

"The incubation period of the Omicron variant - around three to five days - is shorter than the Delta variant's incubation period of five to seven," Tsang said.

"We will be able to detect infected aircrew during their three-day quarantine at hotels."

Aircrew should still avoid attending gatherings or going to crowded places after their quarantine, Tsang added.

Meanwhile, the government said yesterday that domestic helpers can quarantine at Regala Skycity Hotel on Lantau Island starting Wednesday.

This is because the Penny's Bay quarantine center will be reserved for Omicron-related quarantine purposes.

The hotel will provide 1,138 rooms for HK$750 per night, and employers can book from 9.30am today.

Helpers currently staying at the Penny's Bay center who are scheduled to finish quarantine after January 5 will be transferred to the new hotel for the remainder of their quarantine.The authorities will bear the costs of the transfer.

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