Parts Of China Toughens Crew Quarantine Rules Amid Delta Variant

Airport and airline staff in parts of China will be subjected to stricter quarantine measures in response to the spread of the Delta variant. Some staff could be forced into mandatory isolation for up to 28 days, as China struggles to contain the virus.

Air China 737 MAX
Chinese authorities are enforcing tougher quarantines due to the Delta variant. Photo: Getty Images

China toughens up quarantine rules for airline staff

China has seen a concerning surge in Delta cases over the past few weeks, with over half of the 34 provinces and regions in the country reporting cases. In response, aviation authorities are enforcing stricter quarantine measures for staff and crew. New quarantine rules could see staff, which includes airline crews and ground staff, handed quarantines of up to 28 days.

While China’s aviation authority, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), has yet to revise its nationwide rules, regional authorities are bringing tougher measures into force. For example, in Hubei province, authorities are introducing a four-tier risk assessment system for airline crew operating on international routes.

Parts Of China Toughens Crew Quarantine Rules Amid Delta Variant
Staff and crew could be forced into 28 day quarantine periods. Photo: Getty Images

The Delta variant outbreak has been traced to a particular event in Nanjing involving airport staff. Airport employees cleaned a Russian aircraft on July 10th before traveling onwards and spreading the virus. It is believed to have first spread around Zhangjiajie, a tourist city, before eventually reaching Beijing.

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

Positive cases incur more flight bans

China suspended more flights this week after passengers arriving in the country tested positive for COVID. A Philippine Airlines flight and a Cambodia Airways flight have been handed two-week suspensions, with five passengers onboard each flight testing positive on August 4th.

Flight PR314 from Manila to Tianjin and Flight KR961 from Phnom Penh to Chengdu will be suspended from August 23rd for two weeks. With five cases each, both flights only just made the two-week suspension mark.

Two more routes were suspended this week after positive COVID tests. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

According to China’s rules, one to four positive cases incur a one-week ban, while five to nine will incur a two-week ban. 10 or more cases will be handed a mandatory four-week route suspension. There have been several instances of airlines being handed the maximum four-week ban.

An end to China’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy?

China has had success in curbing the spread of COVID with its ‘zero-tolerance approach. This approach has forced entire shutdowns of cities and restricted international entries into the country. However, due to the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, Chinese leaders are now questioning if this strategy will continue to be effective.

China Eastern 777
China may end up abandoning its zero-tolerance COVID strategy. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Xi Chen, a health economist at the Yale School of Public Health, said,

“I don’t think ‘zero tolerance’ can be sustained. Even if you can lock down all the regions in China, people might still die, and more might die due to hunger or loss of jobs.”

Despite its effectiveness, the zero-tolerance strategy takes its toll on the national economy. For example, authorities shut down a terminal at Ningbo-Zhoushan port, the world’s third-largest container port, last week after a single worker tested positive. The backlog from terminal congestion is expected to take several months to clear.

Do you think China should persist with its tough COVID measures? Let us know what you think in the comments.