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China Airlines to Put All its Pilots into Quarantine to Stem COVID-19 Outbreak

China Airlines to Put All its Pilots into Quarantine to Stem COVID-19 Outbreak

Taiwan’s state-owned airline China Airlines said on Monday that it would put all of its operational pilots into 14-day quarantine to stem a major COVID-19 outbreak at the carrier. The cluster first started at a quarantine hotel used by China Airlines staff when they return from an overseas trip and has since spread to hotel workers and other pilots at the airline’s training center.

Since the cluster started in late April there have been at least 35 confirmed cases amongst pilots, as well as flight attendants, other workers and their friends and family. Although small by the standards of many countries, the cluster is a serious outbreak for Taiwan which has done exceptionally well in keeping the pandemic at bay.

China Airlines had already shut down the quarantine hotel at the Novotel hotel close to Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport and moved all its staff to an institutional quarantine facility in order to bring the outbreak under control.

The airline had also ordered all of its operational pilots to undergo mandatory testing – at which point more cases outside of the hotel cluster were detected.

On Sunday, China Airlines ordered around one-sixth of its pilot’s workforce into quarantine but less than a day later, the airline said it would now require all pilots to go into quarantine.

In an attempt to keep the airline flying, pilots will be split into cohorts and required to go into quarantine at different times. They will only be released from a 14-day isolation period once they have tested negative for COVID-19.

“Through grouping, manpower will be deployed to maintain flight operations as much as possible, rather than being completely grounded,” a spokesperson for the airline explained.

“China Airlines will make every effort to deploy available manpower, and the relevant details will be confirmed with the command center,” a statement continued.

The airline said that it was still finalising schedules for the coming weeks but that it would prioritize cargo services as these flights are the “lifeblood of the industry”.

On Friday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said it would fine the airline 1 million yaun (USD $155,400) for the “improper management” of the crew quarantine hotel.

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