Covid-19: Hong Kong-based aircrew allowed to leave hotels during overseas layovers in latest relaxation

Hong Kong-based air crew no longer have to self-isolate in hotels while overseas, ending the government’s Covid-19 ‘closed-loop arrangements’ intended to minimize their contact with the community in these places.

Aircrew at Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: GovHK.

Authorities said Tuesday, however, that they should avoid activities without a mask, except when eating or drinking, and refrain “from going to crowded places”.

Upon arrival in Hong Kong, they will also be required to undergo daily Covid-19 PCR tests until the fourth day after arrival. Unlike inbound travelers arriving from abroad, they can only leave the airport after receiving a negative Covid-19 test result.

According to local media, they will not receive a code orange in their LeaveHomeSafe contact tracing app like other arrivals. Code orange restricts access to a number of premises under the city’s Vaccine Pass program, including restaurants, bars and gyms.

Hong Kong authorities have asked airlines to put in place “robust mechanisms to ensure that their crew comply with the requirements during their layover,” the government press release said. He added that airlines should introduce internal mechanisms to sanction breaches.

The arrivals hall of Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

The relaxation follows the lifting of the three-day hotel quarantine requirement for flight attendants upon arrival in Hong Kong last month.

It also follows the government’s scrapping of the three-night hotel quarantine rule for foreign travellers, marking a long-awaited step in Hong Kong’s gradual easing of Covid-19 rules. The move was announced amid vocal calls from industry leaders and lawmakers for the city to drop the quarantine requirement for hotels over fears it could damage Hong Kong’s reputation as a hub. international finance.

Airline websites saw a surge in traffic after the announcement as Hong Kongers rushed to plan their trip.

The city has maintained strict pandemic-related laws even as much of the world has opened up and returned to normality. Wearing a mask remains mandatory outdoors, public gatherings are limited to four people and the use of a contact tracing app is required to enter certain types of premises, including restaurants.

A Cathay Pacific aircraft parked at Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

In August, Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific reported losses of around HK$5 billion in the first six months of this year. Airline chairman Patrick Healy said it was “quite clear that Hong Kong lags far behind other international aviation hubs”.

The airline announced on Wednesday that it had launched a recruitment campaign aimed at hiring more than 4,000 frontline workers, including 2,000 cabin crew. This is the airline’s first large-scale hiring wave since the pandemic began more than two and a half years ago, Cathay Pacific said.

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