CORONAVIRUS/CECC mulls harsher punishments for flight crew who break quarantine

12/04/2020 07:44 PM
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CNA file photo for illustrative purpose only
CNA file photo for illustrative purpose only

Taipei, Dec. 4 (CNA) The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Thursday it is considering introducing stiffer penalties for flight crew members who contravene COVID-19 prevention regulations after it was found that five flight attendants recently broke quarantine in Taiwan.

The attendants -- three from EVA Air and two from China Airlines (CAL) -- were found to have violated quarantine rules by slipping out of their apartments to visit friends, family and several establishments during their mandatory five-day quarantine period after arriving in Taiwan, according to news reports, which said the incidents had taken place over the past three months.

To prevent recurrences of such protocol breaches, stricter rules are being considered for crew members and they may be required to remain in home quarantine for 14 days instead of five when they arrive in Taiwan, CECC spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said at a press conference Thursday.

Under those regulations, during the 14-day period, any flight crew member found breaking the COVID-19 protocols may be subject to fines of up to NT$1 million (US$35,311), Chuang said, citing the Communicable Disease Control Act.

Chuang said that tighter regulations and closer monitoring of flight crew are being considered to ensure that they comply with the COVID-19 protocols jointly laid out by their airlines and the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

Due to the particular nature of their work, flight crews are currently required to wear the same personal protective equipment as medical workers during flights, but they are not required to undergo the 14-day mandatory quarantine when they arrive back in Taiwan, as other travelers are required to.

They only have to undergo a five-day quarantine, and if they break quarantine rules, they are not subject to government fines.

Currently, aircrew are also not subject to the location-tracking "electronic fence" that helps to ensure that arriving travelers remain in home quarantine, Chuang said.

Regarding the five flight attendants who contravened the rules, Chuang said, the CECC imposed a 14-day home quarantine requirement upon each of them, which they have since completed.

On Thursday, EVA Air said it had fired the three flight attendants on Nov. 10, Nov. 17 and Dec. 2, respectively, saying that it would not tolerate such disregard for the country's COVID-19 prevention efforts.

CAL, meanwhile, declined to disclose whether it had disciplined its two flight attendants involved in the breach, saying only that any breaches of COVID-19 regulations will be reported to the authorities as required.

Both airlines said any crew members of theirs who break COVID-19 protocols will be subject to various degrees of punishment, depending on the severity of the breaches.

Taiwan in late March implemented regulations that require five days of home quarantine for all flight crew arriving on long haul flights.

(By Chen Wei-ting, Wang Shu-fen and Chung Yu-chen)


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