CORONAVIRUS/CECC orders CAL's overseas pilots back to Taiwan for quarantine
Taipei, May 10 (CNA) The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has ordered that all China Airlines (CAL) pilots who are currently overseas fly back to Taiwan to undergo 14 days of quarantine in a tightening of its COVID-19 protocols.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, announced the new measure at a regular press conference Monday as the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases involving CAL pilots and an airport hotel that houses a CAL dormitory increased to 35.
"We worry there's a (virus) transmission chain within CAL that has not yet been detected," said Chen, who along with his team has been unable to pinpoint the sources of the CAL pilots' infections since they began on April 20.
Arguing that the 13 COVID-19 cases involving CAL pilots (out of the airline's more than 1,200 pilots) indicated that the virus has invaded in many ways, he said the outbreak could not be stopped unless a large-scale quarantine was carried out.
CAL pilots in Taiwan will also have to perform 14-day quarantines, but the CECC did not say when those would begin.
It was not immediately known how many CAL pilots are currently outside of Taiwan, but under the plan, they will have to be isolated for 14 days at a government-run quarantine center.
At the same time, flight attendants who have served on long-haul flights or been in contact with flight crew members who pose a "risk" -- those who have not completed 14-day mandatory quarantines or tested negative for COVID-19 at the end of their quarantine -- must be isolated at home or at a government-operated facility for 14 days.
No pilots or flight attendants are allowed to see members of their family or visit public places unless they complete 14 days in quarantine and test negative for COVID-19, but they will still be allowed to work.
People in the "risk" group can work together on flights to enable CAL to maintain some of its flight operations, but they will not be allowed to work with crew members in the "safe" group, comprised of those who have completed the quarantine and negative-test protocols, according to the CECC.
In a statement, CAL said it will comply with the CECC's revised quarantine protocols and will maintain as many flights as possible by adjusting the scheduling of its personnel.
It won't stop flight services completely, the airline said, stressing that all available manpower will be mobilized, and it noted that cargo transport services will be prioritized while passenger services on some fights will be canceled.
The carrier announced on April 30 that it would cancel some of its passenger flights to several long-haul destinations, and local media reported recently that it was also considering cutting back some of its more lucrative cargo flights because of the manpower shortage.
As of Monday, some 300 of the airline's pilots were either in quarantine as a precaution or hospitalized with COVID-19.
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