A group of pilots and flight attendants who work for the Taiwanese carrier China Airlines have been linked to a rare COVID-19 outbreak that stemmed from a quarantine hotel at Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport. And on Tuesday, it was revealed that a pilot and flight attendant who tested positive for the novel Coronavirus had broken self-monitoring rules and visited a bar while potentially infectious.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said contact tracing was being stepped up in a bid to contain the hotel outbreak which has risen to at least 24 confirmed cases. It’s believed that infected China Airlines pilots and flight attendants somehow infected other crew isolating at the hotel, as well as hotel workers.
Authorities are taking the threat so seriously that almost all of China Airlines’ 700 operational flight crew who were not in quarantine were recalled to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing. No further cases have so been identified.
Around 207 China Airlines staffers were in the quarantine hotel at the time of the outbreak and could have been infected. The Novotel hotel has been temporarily shut down and the crew transferred to a central quarantine facility according to a spokesperson for the airline.
Taiwan has done so well to contain the COVID-19 pandemic that the pilot and flight attendant who broke self-monitoring rules are known locally as cases 1,153 and 1,154.
The pilot worked a trip to the United States between 16th to 18th April and quarantined for three days after his return. He took a test on April 25 which was negative but started to feel ill on May 1. He took another test on Tuesday which was positive.
The pilot and the flight attendant have now been slapped with fines of NT$150,000 (USD $5,000) for visiting a public bar while they were meant to be self-monitoring.
The outbreak scare comes just weeks after Taiwan eased quarantine rules for flight crew returning from long-haul trips. The country is now considering stepping up quarantine measures in a similar way to Hong Kong’s strict isolation rules for airline staff.
Last year, fellow Taiwanese airline Eva Air was caught up in a COVID-19 scandal that resulted in several pilots and flight attendants being sacked for breaking pandemic control measures.
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.