CORONAVIRUS/Flight crews to face stricter quarantine rules in Taiwan

12/28/2020 06:58 PM
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China Airlines flight crew members. CNA file photo Dec. 27, 2020
China Airlines flight crew members. CNA file photo Dec. 27, 2020

Taipei, Dec. 28 (CNA) Taiwan is tightening its quarantine rules for long-haul flight crews by lengthening the quarantine period after an EVA Air pilot infected another person earlier this month despite the protocols in place.

Under the new rules, which take effect on Jan. 1, 2021, long-haul flight crews or flight crews that enter another country before returning to Taiwan will have to stay in quarantine for seven days, up from the current three days for pilots and five days for flight attendants.

Also, such individuals will not be allowed to leave their hotel or home unless they test negative for COVID-19 after the seven days of home quarantine, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who also heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), said Monday.

From the eighth day on, members of flight crews will be required to follow stricter self-health management protocols for seven days, meaning they cannot use public transportation or visit crowded venues.

They will also have to record in detail the places they go and whom they make contact with, Chen said.

Normally, people observing "self-health management" protocols must wear a mask at all times and take their temperature twice a day.

But they are only encouraged to avoid rather than being formally prohibited from using public transportation or visiting crowded venues, such as pubs, night clubs, department stores and night markets.

The stricter rules are being put in place after the EVA Air pilot, who was apparently infected during a long-haul trip to the United States, infected a woman in Taiwan days later in what was the country's first confirmed domestic transmission case since April.

Though the pilot, a New Zealand national, spent the required three days in quarantine after arriving in Taiwan, he did not wear a mask at all times while visiting department stores and restaurants with the woman who was later infected.

He was later fined NT$300,000 for not cooperating with authorities in detailing where he had been or whom he had been in contact with after completing quarantine, and he was also fired by the airline.

The CECC said there was one exception to the new quarantine rules.

Flight crews on seven-day quarantines can be assigned to go back to work on long-haul flights if they have completed at least three days of the quarantine in the case of pilots or five days in the case of flight attendants.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) has also tightened its control measures, demanding that flight crews wear masks and sanitize their hands while on board and prohibiting them from going out or making contact with other people during layovers, the CECC said.

In addition, airlines are required to establish a monitoring mechanism to see if any crew members are violating the rules.

CAA Deputy Director-General Lin Jiunn-liang (林俊良) said at the CECC press briefing Monday that any flight crew members who fail to comply with the quarantine rules will face a fine of between NT$100,000 (US$3,554) to NT$1 million under the Communicable Disease Control Act.

An airline can also be fined up to NT$1 million if its flight crews were found to have not observed the rules, Lin said.

In the case of a serious offense, the CAA could even consider cutting an airline's flights, Lin added.

In contrast to what Deputy Transportation Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said earlier Monday, the new regulations do not require flight crews to be quarantined in designated facilities, but can stay in places meeting home quarantine requirements, such as in a separate room with an en suite bathroom.

(By Chen Wei-ting and Elizabeth Hsu)

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