The Central Epidemic Command Center yesterday announced stricter measures to contain a COVID-19 outbreak among China Airlines (華航) flight crew, as the nature of the confirmed cases indicated an unknown chain of transmission within the airline.
The “Down to Zero 2.0” plan will be tough on China Airlines personnel, but is necessary to minimize the risk to society, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center.
Under the measures, all China Airlines pilots and copilots are to be recalled to undergo quarantine at government centers, while cabin crew who are returning from long-haul flights or who have had contact with high-risk crew members would be required to quarantine for 14 days, the center said.
Photo courtesy of Xian Lao Man
No China Airlines crew would be permitted to visit public locations until after they complete quarantine and test negative for COVID-19, it said.
In addition, high-risk and low-risk employees would not be permitted to fly together, it added.
As opposed to a containable outbreak at an airport hotel, the China Airlines outbreak poses a tougher challenge, as flight crew risk being infected from multiple sources, Chen said.
Transmission within the airline is already widespread, necessitating a stricter response, he said, adding that the measures were formulated with input from the airline.
China Airlines said in a statement that its flight crew would take turns to undergo the 14-day home quarantine in compliance with the plan.
“We have divided flight and cabin crew members into different groups to maintain services,” the airline said.
Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times
Both cargo and passenger flight schedules are being adjusted, with the details awaiting approval from the center, it added.
China Airlines and other national airlines have been braving the COVID-19 pandemic to transport medical supplies, semiconductors, food and other necessary items around the world, contributing greatly to the nation’s diplomatic and economic successes over the past year, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said, urging the public to support the airline during this tough time.
The announcement came after the center yesterday reported four more cases linked to China Airlines and Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport hotel, bringing the number in the cluster to 35.
Three of the cases were classified as domestic, while the source of infection of the fourth, a pilot, was still under investigation, the center said.
One of the domestic cases works as a shuttle bus driver for Novotel, it said.
He was placed in a centralized quarantine facility after the outbreak was discovered on April 29, at which point he tested negative, the center said, adding that he began presenting symptoms last week.
He might have caught the virus from colleagues he transported a week before they tested positive, it said.
The two other domestic cases are family members of a pilot who tested positive on April 26, it added.
The center also announced updated contact-tracing information in Taipei for two cases.
The wife of a pilot who tested positive on Saturday visited a Pxmart (全聯) store on Xingyun Street in Neihu District (內湖) from 3pm to 4pm on Tuesday last week, the center said.
The pilot diagnosed yesterday went to the Seven Scholars Lounge at Howard Plaza Hotel from 6:30pm to 8pm on Monday last week. The next day he ate at Xian Lao Man in Nangang District (南港) from 6:30pm to 7:30pm, it said.
Meanwhile, the government canceled planned charter flights to bring Taiwanese back from India, Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said yesterday.
Wang told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee that the government had originally planned to charter flights from China Airlines, but as 300 China Airlines pilots are in quarantine, the airline would not have enough crew for the flights.
Taiwanese in India would have to return to Taiwan via Tokyo on Japan Airlines flights, he said.
As of Sunday, 1,258 of 1,279 pilots at China Airlines had taken polymerase chain reaction and serological tests, while 447 pilots and 750 flight attendants had been vaccinated, Wang said.
Meanwhile, Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) yesterday said that the enhanced disease prevention measures implemented in the city are to remain in place until May 30.
Additional reporting by Lu Yi-hsuan
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