A diplomatic storm is said to be brewing between London and Singapore after an entire planeload of British Airways cabin crew and pilots were forced into quarantine in the city. The crew members were detained when local health officials classed them as ‘close contacts’ of a BA flight attendant who tested positive for Monkeypox.
The unfolding drama is reminiscent of several incidents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic when aircrew found themselves thrown into quarantine when their colleagues tested positive for the virus.
British Airways even scrapped flights to Hong Kong altogether after deciding it could no longer risk having its pilots and cabin crew imprisoned at the notorious Penny’s Bay quarantine camp.
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is said to be trying to secure permission from the authorities in Singapore to release the flight attendants caught up in the latest Monkeypox drama and have them repatriated on a specially charted flight.
The latest diplomatic incident involving British Airways started on Tuesday when a 42-year-old male cabin crew tested positive for Monkeypox while on a layover in Singapore.
The crew member worked a flight from London to Singapore last week and spent two days in the city before working a flight to Sydney. He returned to Singapore a day later when he developed a rash and sought medical advice.
After testing positive for Monkeypox, the crew member was immediately taken to an isolation ward at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases. Officials classed 13 people including two pilots and nine members of cabin crew as close contacts and ordered them into quarantine for 21-days.
Monkeypox is generally a self-limiting illness but it can pose a serious health threat to certain at-risk groups. The virus is not classed as a sexually transmitted infection but a recent outbreak in Europe and elsewhere has disproportionately affected gay and bisexual men who have sex with men after close and prolonged intimate contact.
The World Health Organisation warns that “human-to-human transmission can result from close contact with respiratory secretions, skin lesions of an infected person or recently contaminated objects”.
In a statement, British Airways said it was “working closely with the Singapore Health Authorities and have offered assistance with any information they require.”
“We’re in contact with our crew and providing the necessary support,” a spokesperson for the airline told us.
British Airways said the risk of Monkeypox infection onboard its aircraft was “very low” and that the “safety and security of our customers and crew is always our top priority”.
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.