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Hong Kong Covid-19: Former Cathay Pacific flight attendant charged with violating anti-pandemic rules

The government on Monday confirmed the arrests of two former flight attendants, saying they ran against orders that prevented them from leaving self-isolation.

While authorities did not name the airline, Cathay confirmed Tuesday to CNN Business that the two people worked for the company but are now "no longer employed" by the airline. The company added that it is "acutely aware of the critical importance of complying with anti-pandemic measures both in Hong Kong and abroad."

Hong Kong is home to some of the toughest quarantine rules in the world, as it and China are sticking to "zero covid" strategies aimed at removing any trace of coronavirus.

Most people entering the city are forced to quarantine in a hotel for up to three weeks on arrival, even if they are vaccinated. Flight crews are subject to different rules depending on their routes, but even these restrictions are getting tougher. Earlier this month, the government announced that all city-based cargo air crews who have stayed abroad will have to spend seven days in hotel quarantine when they return, up from a three-day isolation requirement.

Like the staff of many airlines, all of Cathay's flight crews are fully vaccinated. But Cathay pilots told CNN Business several weeks ago that the airline had adopted strict policies for those traveling to countries designated as "high-risk," such as the United States, India and the United Kingdom.

The government and Cathay did not provide details about the stewardesses who were arrested or what their quarantine orders were. But in its statement announcing the arrests, authorities said they arrived in Hong Kong from the United States on December 24 and 25, respectively. On the 25th and 27th of December they have "performed unnecessary activities", while they were meant to be in isolation, according to the statement.

Both individuals were later tested positive for the Omicron variant of coronavirus and have been discharged from the hospital. They are out on bail, but are due in court on February 9. If convicted, they risk up to six months in prison.

Hong Kong recently identified a number of Omicron cases in a cluster of flight crews - breaking a nearly three-month series of no locally transmitted Covid infections.

As fears of local Omicron transmission grow, authorities have introduced new restrictions over the past few weeks, including a ban on eating after 6 p.m. 18.00 and close gyms and spas.

While Cathay has said it will comply with government quarantine orders, the airline has also warned of their toll. Last month, the company said the measures could lead to "dramatic disruptions" by local supply chains as the company is forced to slow down some passenger and cargo flights.

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