Taiwan Will Put China Airlines’ Entire Pilot Pool Into Quarantine

In an attempt to slow the spread of a new wave of the COVID-19 virus, Taiwan has confirmed it will place all pilots working for China Airlines into a 14-day mandatory quarantine. A recent surge in cases in Taiwan has been linked to pilots working for the airline. The decision will impact passengers, crew, and all of the airline’s operations, including cargo.

Taiwan Will Put China Airlines’ Entire Pilot Pool Into Quarantine
Taiwan is imposing a two-week quarantine on all China Airlines pilots after a surge in COVID-19 cases. Photo: Getty Images

Due to its proximity to China, where the COVID-19 virus originated, Taiwan experienced its first case of the virus early on in January 2020. However, since then, Taiwan has only had 12 deaths. The low death toll is due to the fast and effective implementation of public health measures, including social distancing, quarantine, and face masks.

However, in recent weeks there has been a surge of cases that health officials tracked to pilots working for China Airlines. Many pilots working for the airline stayed at the same airport hotel, which is the source of at least 35 new infections. As a result, Taiwan will put all pilots for the airline into a two-week quarantine.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Still operating flights

Taiwan’s health authorities are aware of the massive impact this action will have on China Airlines’ operations. Reuters has quoted Health Minister Chen Shih-Chung as saying,

“This will have a big impact on China Airlines, on its passenger and freighter flights, and for the crew, too. But for the safety of the whole community, we cannot but make this decision.”

Pilots will only be released from quarantine after two weeks and having received a negative test result. This creates a significant delay in how many flights the airline can operate to and from Taiwan. With pilots in isolation, there will likely be at least a two-week delay in the transportation of goods. China Airlines is Taiwan’s major airline for cargo operations.

Taiwan Will Put China Airlines’ Entire Pilot Pool Into Quarantine
Despite the restrictions, China Airlines will continue flying to Taiwan. Photo: Boeing

However, China Airlines still plans to operate some flights to the country. The airline will reportedly split its pilots into two groups to avoid all pilots being quarantined at the same time. The result will be reduced operations over the coming weeks until the restrictive measure is lifted. Until things return to normal, the airline will prioritize cargo import and export operations.

Restrictions for Taiwan on the mainland

The surge in cases in Taiwan has also meant the some of China’s south-eastern provinces have put preventative measures in place. Today was supposed to be the start of a trial program in which certain people arriving in China from Taiwan would only need to quarantine for two days.

However, over the weekend, Chinese authorities announced the delay of the program due to the increase in cases in Taiwan. Authorities in Taiwan and China are currently assuming the pilots could have passed the virus onto hotel staff. This poses a risk of infection across Taiwan and for anyone arriving in China from Taiwan.

China coronavirus domestic air travel
China has also placed some restrictions on people arriving from Taiwan. Photo: Getty Images

In Taiwan, pilots and flight crew members are not prioritized to receive the vaccine. This means very few have been vaccinated, a move that some have criticized. In addition, hotel staff are also not vaccinated and have been in contact with China Airlines crew and foreign crews. Some sources are saying that foreign crew could have passed the virus to the hotel staff. Staff then passed it to the China Airlines crew.

Whatever the outbreak’s source, Taiwan will have limited cargo and passenger operations until the virus is under control. Authorities have said it hopes to have no new local case by May 19th, proving the situation is under control.

What do you think of the situation in Taiwan? Will quarantining the pilots be enough? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.