After one British Airways crew member tested positive for COVID-19, all flight attendants on her flight were rousted from their hotel rooms and brought to a quarantine detention center in Hong Kong. One flight attendant has offered ongoing commentary concerning her time in detention, which provides a fascinating look at how Hong Kong is battling the virus.
BA Flight Attendant Shares About Her Life In Hong Kong Quarantine Detention
Flight attendant Ellie Freeman has broadcast her confinement on Snapchat. She worked BA31 from London to Hong Kong on Monday, September 21st. Upon arrival, all members of the flight crew were tested. While it is not clear what took so long, the results only came back on Thursday. One flight attendant tested positive and remains asymptomatic.
Concerned that she had unwittingly infected her colleagues, all flight attendants were taken a government quarantine detention center. Meanwhile, pilots were allowed to return to London.
As you can see, she has sufficient water and is offered a menu choice including both Chinese or Western food. But the facilities look one-star at best…
She had demanded to go home, along with many of her colleagues and sparked outrage by calling the facilities a “a literal concentration camp.”
British Airways, meanwhile, is more concerned about making their stay comfortable than getting them out:
“We are in regular contact with our crew who are quarantining in line with local Covid regulations, and providing extra supplies to make their stay as comfortable as possible.
“We work closely with governments in every country we fly to, and will always put the safety and wellbeing of our teams and customers at the heart of everything we do.”
Pajamas and towels are on the way. While the Hong Kong government does not charge for “Club Hong Kong” meals and accommodations, any additional amenities cost money. For example, a hand towel runs HKD60 (~USD8).
My Thoughts On This
Obviously the concentration camp comparison is in poor taste. But is the detention itself reasonable?
I tread very carefully when commenting on this incident. While such forced detention runs counter to my very American notions of freedom and individual rights, Hong Kong must be given tremendous credit for taking the virus seriously and largely beating it. As uncomfortable as placing so much value on the collective over the individual is, the numbers are staggering if true. The UK’s COVID infection rate is 10X higher than in Hong Kong.
Obviously, prefect security is theoretically achievable by locking everyone inside and throwing away the key. There must be balance between civil liberties and freedom of movment and assembly, as the very protests in Hong Kong showcased prior to the pandemic.
But I cannot fault Hong Kong for taking steps to isolate people who were directly in contact with those who contracted the virus. How can you when the region has done so well in fighting this virus and protecting its citizens? However, as soon as freshly negative COVID-19 tests return for the flight attendants, they should be allowed on a plane home. Why quarantine in what really amounts to a prison if you do not have the virus? And are CCTV cameras really necessary in a confined facility? I think not.
And did British Airways test its crew members prior to the flight? If not, it is time to start.
There’s no way I’m traveling to Hong Kong anytime soon. Even if I was allowed in, it would not be worth the risk to be stuck in that sort of quarantine. But as easy as it is to condemn Hong Kong for its overreaction, it is simply doing its best to protect its citizens from harm, one of the very purpose of government in the first place. I doubt Freeman and others will be requesting Hong Kong assignments anytime soon, but this incident isn’t quite as bad as it is made out to be in the tabloid press.
(H/T: View from the Wing // image: Ellie Freeman / Facebook)