Two now former flight attendants for Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific, who were fired by the airline for breaking pandemic rules while both were infected with COVID-19, have been jailed for eight weeks after being found guilty of a local court.
According to local media, Wong Yoon-loong and Nilsson Lau Kok-wang, both 45, were blamed for bringing the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 into Chinese territory, leading to a massive increase in infections and deaths among a largely unvaccinated elderly population.
Hong Kong’s draconian border controls kept the city virtually virus-free for much of the pandemic, although the actual source of Omicron’s spread is disputed and an alternative theory places the blame on a quarantine hotel, where the virus would have spread. from one room to another.
Wong and Nilsson faced a maximum sentence of six months in prison for their crimes, but on Thursday, they were told they would only be jailed for eight weeks. The pair have already spent the last few weeks in jail on remand following the guilty verdict.
At the time of the crime in January 2022, most pilots and flight attendants returning to Hong Kong from an overseas trip were expected to be quarantined in a dedicated hotel, but there were special exemptions for cargo-only flights and the crew was allowed to isolate themselves at home.
Wong and Nilsson returned to Hong Kong on two separate cargo-only flights and were exempt from going to a quarantine hotel, but were still expected to self-isolate at home and undergo regular COVID-19 testing. However, the two were seen in crowded indoor settings where multiple people were reportedly infected.
Former flight attendants only found out they had COVID-19 after failing to comply with the isolation order. The court initially jailed the men for nine weeks, but one week was discounted for extenuating circumstances, including job loss.