Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday said the country has quarantined 130 Cathay Pacific pilots for 21 days, raising fears the aviation hub’s “zero COVID” policy could aggravate a global supply crisis caused by the pandemic.
This came after three pilots slipped through strict Covid-19 testing protocols and tested positive upon reentering the international financial centre.
Also, all aviation personnel who stayed at a hotel in Frankfurt, Germany, where the three pilots spent their layover will also undergo 21 days of mandatory quarantine, Lam said.
It was reported that authorities sent 130 cargo and passenger pilots, along with cabin crew, to a government-run quarantine facility in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, which imports more than 90 percent of its food.
“If there are one or two more cases like this, we might lose all our cargo pilots,” Lam said in a press briefing, admitting the move would have a significant impact on the city’s supply chains.
The decision “appears rather extreme”, said Shukor Yusof, founder of aviation consultancy firm Endau Analytics. “Apart from the inconvenience for the pilots, it will likely also incur additional costs to the airline, at a time when its financials are under stress, and weaken Hong Kong’s position as an air hub.”
The move is the latest blow to Cathay Pacific, which is reeling from the impact of the pandemic and mass pro-democracy and anti-government protests in 2019.