Hong Kong authorities have tightened regulations over air cargo crew members, subjecting them to three-day hotel quarantine before they start home isolation.
This came as the city reports six new imported cases, with five of them suspected to involve the Omicron coronavirus
variant. Two confirmed cases and one preliminary positive case were Cathay Pacific aircrew, and they had visited shopping mall Festival Walk and took public transportation during the Christmas Holiday before they were diagnosed with Covid
The new arrangement will see air cargo crew spend three days in hotel quarantine before a period of home isolation.
Controller of the Centre for Health Protection Edwin Tsui Lok-kin said most recent infections of aircrew staff have been discovered in the first three days. The arrangement aims to strike a balance between maintaining the logistics of goods and reducing the risk of an outbreak.
"We expect most cases in the future to be of the new Omicron variant," said Edwin Tsui, controller of the Centre for Health Protection. "We have a very high community outbreak risk. A single spark can start a fifth wave."
Tsui called on aircrew members to stay out of crowded places and undergo testing regularly.
Two aircrewmen, both aged 45, were among the six imported cases confirmed on Tuesday. They both returned to Hong Kong from New York in the US.
One resides at One South Lane in Shek Tong Tsui and arrived in Hong Kong on Christmas Eve. The building was locked down on Monday night, and no case was detected.
The second one lives at Twilight Court in Discovery Bay and arrived on Christmas Day. A lock down for compulsory testing started on Tuesday night.
Another 14 preliminary positive cases were reported, including a 44-year-old male aircrew member living at Tower 1 of The Sea Crest in Tuen Mun.
The crewman left Hong Kong on December 22 for Chicago and returned to the SAR on December 25. He was said to have dined with the crewman who lives in Shek Tong Tsui on the day of his return and had been to the Apple shop in Festival Walk, Kowloon Tong.
Meanwhile, the Education Bureau announced today that unvaccinated teachers and school staff are required to conduct Covid
-19 tests once every three days, starting next Tuesday (January 4).
The Bureau said the move came as the SAR government announced that the current vaccination in lieu of regular testing arrangements for government employees would be further tightened starting from December 28.
It also said it will no longer accept the results from deep throat saliva tests or rapid antigen tests.
"Unless an individual can produce a medical certificate certifying that his/her health conditions do not allow him/her to receive vaccination, all regular Covid
-19 tests must be arranged outside working hours and at his/her own expense," the Bureau wrote.
The Bureau also added that it will keep in view the city's "vaccine
bubble" arrangement and make timely announcements to schools about the relevant changes as appropriate.