In just over a month, Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific will require everyone entering its premises to either be fully vaccinated or show a negative test result. The new policy, directed at its workforce via an internal memo, was leaked to the public on Friday and will come into effect on September 1st.
“The Delta variant and other COVID-19 strains that have recently been found present in Hong Kong, are very concerning and as a responsible employer it is our obligation to ensure that we have as safe a working environment as possible.” -Patricia Hwang, Director People, Cathay Pacific, in a memo via Danny Lee.
Expanding beyond aircrew
Simple Flying first reported in late May on the airline’s push to have its aircrew vaccinated. A leaked internal memo from the airline’s Director of Flight Operations warned that being vaccinated could be an essential requirement for Hong Kong-based aircrew. That policy was given a clear deadline of August 31st, as we reported in late July.
However, with this recent policy, which is effective September 1st, Cathay Pacific is broadening the scope of its vaccine requirement – as it’s more than just aircrew setting foot on airline property.
The news comes via Hong Kong-based journalist Danny Lee, who posted the memo to Twitter. In the memo, personnel director Patricia Hwang noted that the airline has looked at what further steps should be taken to protect its people and mitigate risk, “should there be any confirmed cases in Cathay City or other Cathay premises…”
The four-paragraph memo builds up to the final paragraph, which states:
“The decision has been made that from 1 September it will be a requirement that in order to enter Cathay premises, everyone will need to have taken the necessary doses of the vaccine type you have received (i.e. two doses if receiving the vaccine in Hong Kong) or be tested every two weeks.”
Obviously, an airline is made up of more than just aircrew. Thus, it looks like the introduction of this policy will affect much of the airline’s Hong Kong-based workforce, from aircraft technicians all the way to those working in Cathay’s offices- such as administration and operations.
Policy leaves room for the unvaccinated
The policy appears to leave some measure of flexibility for those unwilling or unable to get a vaccine. Indeed, the very last part of the memo shows that the alternative to inoculation is being tested every two weeks.
Therefore, while it may sound like a bold step on the surface, there’s still allowance for those who don’t want to get the jab. One concern is whether or not two weeks is frequent enough in terms of regular testing. Indeed, if an employee were to be infected one or two days after a test, it would take some time before the virus would be detected. Of course, if the majority of employees are vaccinated, the risk is mitigated.
Another issue is the administration and cost associated with regular testing. While the process is likely much more streamlined and efficient than when this crisis first began, it is arguably more of an operational burden to regularly test employees.
On the other side of the world, this is something Lithuania has picked up on, with the country’s Prime Minister suggesting that the government may discontinue offering free coronavirus tests. “I’ll put it frankly: [testing] costs more to the state and the taxpayers than vaccinating a person,” she told LRT. The Prime Minister also noted that offering free tests discourages people from getting vaccinated. This is likely a dilemma that many organizations are facing at this critical juncture.
Simple Flying reached out to Cathay Pacific for comment, who told us that Hong Kong ground employees are given two days of vaccination leave and are entered into a vaccination draw to win Asia Miles, in addition to “an array of other goodies, including free flights and staycations.”
“We do recognize the concerns some employees have about getting vaccinated. All Hong Kong colleagues can receive a free pre-vaccination medical assessment to determine whether they are physically suitable for vaccination.We are incredibly grateful to the 81% of our Hong Kong-based employees, including 97% of our pilots and 85% of our cabin crew, who have already booked or received their vaccinations.”
What do you think of this policy? Is it too strict, or is it too lenient with the allowance of regular testing as a replacement? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment.