A foreign pilot for Taiwan’s EVA Air has been sacked by the airline while he remains in a negative pressure isolation ward in Tapei recovering from COVID-19 after he infected a local woman and in doing so broke the country’s 250-day streak of zero locally transmitted cases of the novel Coronavirus.
The New Zealand pilot, or Case 765 as he is known to Taiwan’s Center’s for Disease Control, was fired for contravening government regulations designed to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.
Local media reports claim the pilot failed to report all the places he had visited in Taiwan following a long-haul flight and as contact tracers scrambled to identify people who might have been exposed to the virus. He was also accused of failing to wear a face mask at points during the flight when the rules stated he should have been wearing one.
In a statement, EVA Air said it “expressed its highest apology” to the people of Taiwan for the pilot’s actions. “The behaviour of an individual employee has undermined everyone’s efforts at epidemic prevention,” the statement continued.
The airline said it had already strengthened epidemic protocols to ensure the incident isn’t repeated in the future.
From now on, pilots will only be allowed to remove their face masks when they are eating or drinking. Only one pilot can eat or drink at any one time and the other must wear a face mask, goggles and disposable gloves.
According to Taiwan’s Apple Daily, Case 765 caused a cluster of infections onboard an aircraft despite strict preventative measures designed to mitigate the risk of onward transmission. The airline was still investigating how the pilot became infected with one line of enquiry being that he didn’t abide by hotel quarantine rules.
Pilots and flight attendants can only operate two long-haul flights per month and must self-isolate in their hotel rooms during their layovers. On their return, they must self-isolate for at least three days and report any symptoms immediately should they appear.
Two other pilots had previously resigned from their positions for apparently breaking EVA Air’s strict rules and four flight attendants have also been reportedly fired for rule-breaking.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan has reported just 777 confirmed cases, the vast majority of which were imported from abroad. The country is only aware of 56 local infections and two infections that occurred on an aircraft. So far, Taiwan has reported just seven deaths caused by COVID-19.
In response to the discovery of a new variant strain of the COVID-19 virus in the United Kingdom which is up to 70 per cent more transmissible, flights between the UK and Taiwan have been halved. Flight attendants and pilots must quarantine for 14-days on their return rather than the usual three days and EVA Air has cancelled all of its services to the UK.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.