Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced this week the government will take legal action against Cathay Pacific to determine any “non-compliance” with safety orders.
Lam said although it is “not a matter of fault finding”, the Hong Kong government is responsible for ensuring 100 per cent compliance to maintain public safety.
“Another investigation which a lot of people have put attention to is on Cathay Pacific, [and] whether this airline had complied with the regulations that we imposed on the airline when we granted the exemption for the air cargo crew in order to ensure that Hong Kong’s air cargo flow could continue to sustain the operation of this city,” Lam said on 11 January at a press conference.
In late December, Hong Kong began slashing multiple international flights in fears the Omicron variant would infiltrate the nation’s zero-COVID strategy. While only few cases emerged, some were detected within the flag carrier’s aircrew.
But as the flight cancellations put higher pressure on Cathay to stay afloat, Hong Kong introduced tighter measures for air cargo employees to spend three days in hotel quarantine before home isolation, to ensure the virus would not spread further.
This was compared to previously only having to isolate at home.
However, only days later, five of its aircrew had tested positive, and two were found to have breached medical surveillance regulations, which resulted in their termination.
“Cathay Pacific is a very big non-compliance case because the air cargo crew should not have gone out during the quarantine at home,” Lam continued.
“Worse still, if we discover through full investigations that some crew of Cathay Pacific, or some staff of Cathay Pacific, should not have been travelling back on a cargo flight and enjoying this exemption, that would be much bigger non-compliance.
“But this has to be put under full investigation and we will take legal action once we have the full evidence of what wrong it has gone into.”
While many nations struggle with surging cases daily – the highest since the pandemic began – Hong Kong has still maintained low infection rates due to its hard border closures amid emerging variants.
The nation has not seen an outbreak since January 2021, and the highest new daily case number recorded in Hong Kong as of yet is 24 since the Omicron variant began.