China Airlines avoids total grounding from COVID outbreak

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China-Airlines

Use this oneTaiwan will quarantine all pilots of its largest carrier China Airlines for 14 days as it tries to stop an outbreak of COVID-19 among its crew. The move would have grounded the airline, but the carrier said Tuesday (11 May) that it would keep flying by organising air crews into separate groups for rolling 14-day home quarantines. “All available manpower will be mobilised by China Airlines. The exact arrangements are still being finalised with the CECC (Central Epidemic Command Centre), but every effort will be made to ensure that essential flights will continue to operate with the crews available. Passenger and cargo flights are still in the process of adjustment,” the airline said.

China Airlines said priority will be given to cargo routes to ensure the continuity of the industries, adding “the short-term reduction in Taiwan’s import/export capacity will have an effect on cargo transport times. The carrying of passengers will be cancelled on selected routes as well. China Airlines is doing everything possible to continue providing its services under current conditions while balancing the demands of epidemic prevention with the physical and mental well-being of air crews”.

While Taiwan has generally kept the pandemic well under control due to early prevention with only sporadic domestic cases, since last month, it has been dealing with an outbreak linked to China Airlines pilots and an airport hotel where many of them stayed. There have been 35 confirmed infections so far in the outbreak. Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters that the only way to break what they believe is a chain of transmission at the carrier is to quarantine all China Airlines pilots currently in Taiwan, and send into quarantine those who return to Taiwan. “This will have a big impact on China Airlines, on its passenger and freighter flights, and for the crew too. But for the safety of the whole community we cannot but make this decision,” he said.

Taiwan’s health authorities believe some of the pilots got infected first overseas, then spread the infection upon returning to Taiwan, and that others could have been infected by pilots from other airlines staying at the same hotel, according to media reports. The government has been alarmed by the cases as some of the pilots went to bars and restaurants in northern Taiwan before their infections were confirmed, running the risk of community transmission, though no infections have been linked to that yet. The airport hotel has since been evacuated and is undergoing a deep clean.

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