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Hong Kong is Finally Lifting Quarantine Rules For Airline Crew But Pandemic Laws Aren’t About to be Lifted Yet

Hong Kong is Finally Lifting Quarantine Rules For Airline Crew But Pandemic Laws Aren’t About to be Lifted Yet

Hong Kong is finally lifting quarantine rules for airline crew from Saturday, 10th September, but the move is just one small step in the Chinese territory’s long road to lifting pandemic restrictions to a level that might be palatable to people coming from Europe, the United States or Australia.

On Friday, the Hong Kong government announced that airline crew would no longer have to quarantine for any length of time when they return from overseas destinations, as well as Taiwan.

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Until recently, pilots and cabin crew were required to undertake a period of hotel quarantine, and local aircrew were then subjected to an extended period of medical observation.

In recent months and weeks, the length of quarantine had been progressively reduced but the rules applied to airline crew returning from everywhere of Hong Kong apart from the Chinese mainland.

The strict rules had put an incredible amount of strain on local carriers such as Cathay Pacific which struggled to find enough volunteers willing to endure constant periods of quarantine.

The change will, no doubt, be welcomed by Cathay Pacific but local aircrew who normally reside in Hong Kong will still be required to practice ‘closed loop’ arrangements when they stay in a foreign country.

A ‘closed loop’ is a term coined in China and Hong Kong when a group of workers are allowed to mingle in a COVID-free environment but are separated from the general public, as well as their friends and family.

In the case of aircrew, they will be expected to remain in the hotel rooms for the duration of their layover – effectively, a form of quarantine.

The relaxation will, however, unlikely convince international airlines to resume regular service to Hong Kong. Carriers such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic suspended services to the territory after several high-profile incidents in which pilots and cabin crew were sent to government-controlled isolation facilities.

To skip quarantine on arrival at Hong Kong International Airport, aircrew will still need to test negative for COVID-19 with a swab taken shortly after landing. Hong Kong’s highly sensitive tests have determined someone is positive for COVID-19 when they actually recovered from the illness weeks or even months before.

In a statement, however, the Hong Kong government said it hoped the change would “effectively help airlines to enhance flight services between Hong Kong and other parts of the world”.

The local government is hoping to get Hong Kong’s status back as an international aviation hub, although many countries still advise their citizens to avoid transiting through Hong Kong over fears passengers could be whisked into quarantine at a moment’s notice.

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