Pilots miffed at HK screening rule

Airline industry body says flight crews should not undergo compulsory Covid testing; Hong Kong hoteliers urge rates waiver; Genting Cruises offer voyages in waters off Taiwan

AIR-CARGO pilots are kicking back against demands for pre-flight-Covid screening made under new measures introduced by the Hong Kong government.

Airline pilots and maritime personnel were among some 30 categories that had been exempt from a 14-day quarantine when travelling to Hong Kong, which has seen a sudden surge in coronavirus infections.

More than 250,000 people who have been granted exemptions entered Hong Kong between February and June, according to reports.

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The government introduced the screening requirement under tougher rules introduced yesterday after daily recorded Covid infections increased to more than 130 in previous days.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents the airline industry, said pilots and cabin crew should not be tested for Covid-19 as a condition for working even though the association’s boss, Alexandre de Juniac, has called for passengers to be screened prior to boarding.

Pilots from cargo carriers such as FedEx have also criticised the move, stoking concerns that crew will refuse to fly to Hong Kong.

Virus experts in the city say there is growing evidence that much of the increase in Covid cases came as “vast numbers of silent carriers slipped through the net, contributing to the most serious surge in infections”, the South China Morning Post reported.

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Meanwhile, a federation of hotel owners in Hong Kong is urging the government to waive rates until March 2021 after tourist arrivals in the city hit rock bottom.

“If there is no profit but loss, there should be no rates payment,” Michael Li, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, which represents more than 200 properties, told the Post.

In a more positive development for the travel industry, Genting Cruises Hong Kong’s Explorer Dream is operating island-hopping trips off Taiwan as domestic business events and travel resume after the island successfully contained the pandemic in its early stages.

About 900 holidaymakers boarded Explorer Dream at Taiwan’s northern Keelung port under new safety protocols. Genting is offering trips of up to five days from Taiwan to the islands of Penghu, Quemoy and Matsu.

James Sun, Genting Cruises’ sales manager, told Reuters that a sea voyage helps meet people’s holiday needs while they are not permitted to travel abroad. Explorer Dream is operating at no more than a third of its capacity and 22 Covid-19 wards have been set up on the ship to isolate passengers if any fall ill, according to the report.

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