Oz flight falls into quarantine net as others squeak through

Top News | Sophie Hui 20 Mar 2020

Passengers on a Cathay Pacific flight from Australia inadvertently became the first batch of travelers to be quarantined after returning from overseas following a six-hour delay.

Hong Kong imposed a two-week mandatory quarantine from yesterday on all arrivals who have traveled to any country in the past 14 days, except Macau and Taiwan.

The flight from Melbourne, CX104, was supposed to land at 9.45pm on Wednesday, with passengers saying they had hoped to arrive at the Hong Kong International Airport before the new rules came into effect. But due to a mechanical glitch, it landed at 3.32am yesterday.

Some said they will accept the quarantine arrangement while some were worried that their work would be affected.

"We can only face it calmly as such a measure is needed," a man surnamed Ng said. "We can only blame Cathay Pacific for too many delays lately."

Another passenger surnamed Choi said they fretted over the delay. "I don't want my work to be affected and I had tried so hard to find this flight ticket," she said.

Other flights managed to arrive before midnight, with passengers rushing through the gates.

One arrival, surnamed Chan, said his flight from Kuala Lumpur, MH078, landed at 11.22pm on Wednesday.

"It was supposed to land at 11.50pm but it arrived earlier. We still had to rush through the gates," he said, adding he would still self-quarantine at home. All arrivals from overseas have started receiving an electronic bracelet for home quarantine.

At the immigration hall, Department of Health officials helped people put on the bracelet, which contain a QR code that pairs up with a mobile app.

The bracelet uses the strength of surrounding communication signals like WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS to determine the wearer's location.

But some people said the bracelets were not working as they had not received any message with a password to complete the registration process.

Chief information officer Victor Lam Wai-kiu said the government has prepared 20,000 electronic bracelets, which will be increased by 10,000 more each day. There would be sufficient bracelets for all arrivals, Lam added.

He said a 300-person team will monitor each bracelet's whereabouts and assist people who fail to activate them.

Photos of two old men wearing electronic bracelets while on public transport has spread on the internet, sparking concerns that people may try to escape quarantine. But others suggested the pair could be on their way home from the airport.

Separately, mainland aviation authorities said they had only learned from Weibo that flights landing at Beijing Capital International Airport were being diverted to other airports including Tianjin and Hohhot from Wednesday night, having received no prior instructions.

sophie.hui@singtaonewscorp.com

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