EVA Air has fired one of its pilots following Taiwan’s first domestically transmitted case of COVID-19 since April. The man, a New Zealand national, is blamed for failing to follow government regulations after he contracted the virus during a flight to the US earlier this month. Two pilots working alongside the man have also been taken ill.
The relationship between airline crew and coronavirus has been a complicated one. From fighting to be allowed to wear PPE to being arrested for breaking strict hotel room quarantines to the infamous nappy suggestion for Chinese cabin crew, the points of contention have been frequent and, at times, dramatic.
Now, a pilot from Taiwan’s EVA Air has lost his job as he is blamed for a rare local COVID-case. The pilot, a New Zealand national, was fired after a friend of his contracted coronavirus. This was the first Taiwanese domestic infection in the last 250 days and has sparked general outrage.
Undermining epidemic prevention efforts
The EVA Air pilot has himself been verified to have contracted the virus during one of his flights to the United States. The airline has confirmed to Reuters that a meeting of its disciplinary committee had found that the pilot had failed to follow the government’s regulations, including the communicable disease transmission law.
“EVA Air has always abided by the government’s epidemic prevention policies, and most crew members also followed the epidemic prevention regulations,” the Star Alliance member said in a statement seen by Reuters.
“However, the behaviour of an individual employee has undermined everyone’s efforts at epidemic prevention.”
Two other pilots fell sick after sharing the cockpit
The unnamed man is also blamed for infecting two EVA Air colleagues after eschewing the wearing of a facial mask in the cockpit earlier this month. Subsequently, one Taiwanese and one Japanese pilot on duty with the man have also tested positive.
According to France24, authorities have given the pilot a fine of Tw$300,000 ($10,600) for failing to “truthfully declare” his contacts and activities once he found out that he had contracted the virus. He reportedly acknowledged having visited several locations, including two department stores. However, he failed to disclose his contact with a woman who contracted the virus.
On Wednesday, Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare, Chen Shih-chung, said that 170 out of 173 of the infected woman’s traced contacts had tested negative for the virus. The remaining three were still pending at the time of writing.
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A fly in the ointment of Taiwan’s track record
Taiwan has been lauded internationally for its containment of the virus. Wise from the SARS outbreak in 2002, when Taiwan had the highest mortality rate globally, it closed its borders early and implemented a strict quarantine system. It has reported only 777 cases and seven deaths.
All international arrivals are subject to a two-week isolation period. However, pilots returning from overseas have only needed to isolate for three days. That is, up until now. With the recent incident breaking Taiwan’s streak of only imported cases, authorities are planning to tighten those rules.
Do you think EVA Air has taken the right decision in firing the pilot? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.