Further action possible after Cathay curbs: CE

Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday said Hong Kong is prepared to take further action to reduce the risk of aircrew spreading Covid-19, adding that an increase in such cases could have an adverse effect on the city’s anti-epidemic work.

Three Cathay Pacific cargo pilots tested positive for the virus after returning from Frankfurt earlier this month. Health authorities suspect a cluster outbreak may have occurred in the hotel where they stayed.

As a result, authorities ordered 130 Cathay cargo pilots, who had stayed in the same hotel in Germany after November 1, to go into quarantine for 21 days, a decision which Lam said has already affected the supply of goods to the territory.

The chief executive noted the airline has taken additional steps to limit the movements of aircrew by not allowing them to go out in the first three days after their return to Hong Kong unless their activity was deemed essential. They are also told to avoid social gatherings, according to an internal Cathay memo.

“These measures were the result of talks between the Transport and Housing Bureau and Cathay Pacific in the past few days, so it wasn’t up to the airline alone. We told Cathay that if there are further cases, society will be highly concerned and they may affect Hong Kong’s anti-epidemic efforts as a whole,” Lam said.

“Please understand, under the premise of maintaining Hong Kong’s normal operation, wherever possible and even with a slight impact on economic activity and society’s operation, we will take further measures.

“For now, I think the measures taken by the government and the airline are appropriate.”

Lam also said while a recent move to scrap quarantine exemptions for many targeted groups would affect Hong Kong’s economic recovery, there needs to be special arrangements for people whose work helps maintain the city’s daily operation.

She added the infections of the three pilots have not affected talks with the mainland on the resumption of quarantine-free travel.

Meanwhile, Lam confirmed that the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, was given approval to skip quarantine on economic grounds to stay in Hong Kong for 32 hours.

Media reports said he arrived in the SAR on Monday.

The chief executive said the American investment bank has important business in Hong Kong and restrictions were imposed on Dimon’s itinerary. “The risks are manageable,” she said.