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Filipino seafarers among those quarantined in six ships off Lamma

23 July 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Some infected Filipino seafarers are among those quarantined in the 6 container ships moored off Lamma

Six container ships with about 140 sailors on board have been put under quarantine off Lamma island after some of their crew members tested positive on arrival at Hong Kong airport, before boarding their respective vessels.

According to Hong Kong health officials who gave a press briefing today, Jul 23, on the latest Covid-19 situation in the city, the seafarers who tested positive were from the Philippines, India, Russia and Montenegro.

The officials said the non-infected crew members couldn’t be sent to quarantine camps because there should be people on board to man the ships.
No mention was made as to how many of the seafarers had tested positive.

Their quarantine period will end on Aug. 3.

Hong Kong had exempted airline and shipping staff from mandatory virus tests and a 14-day quarantine starting on June 8. Both conditions are imposed on all other travelers entering the city.

But with the recent surge in local infections, the government imposed a mandatory saliva test on the air and sea crew from Jul 8. Since then, Hong Kong’s daily Covid-19 tally has included at least two sea or air cargo crew on average.
Some health experts have criticized this as a loophole in the government’s otherwise strict effort to contain the pandemic.
Leung says the new wave of infections appears to have been brought in by people exempted from quarantine

Among them was Dr Gabriel Leung, dean of the faculty medicine at Hong Kong University, who blamed the current wave of infections on people who brought the virus from outside, most likely by people exempted from mandatory quarantine.

Leung said samples taken from recent Covid-19 patients showed little resemblance to earlier strains of the coronavirus that affected Hong Kong earlier this year.

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“The current third wave seemed to have had multiple, new introductions that are unlinked to the previous local clusters,” he said in an interview with RTHK.

Asked about this statement, undersecretary for food and health Chui Tak-yi said a balance must be struck between reducing imported cases and maintaining essential services like food supply that is shipped in.

Under the concessions made by Hong Kong last month, all seafarers can enter the city to either get home or board their vessel without being subjected to quarantine or special permits.
However, seafarers who have completed their service are required to stay onboard the vessel during their stay in Hong Kong, and travel directly to the airport for repatriation to their home countries so as to minimise contact with the local community.

Incoming crewmembers should only fly in when their vessels are berthed in Hong Kong and should get onboard immediately upon arrival. If this is not possible, their shipping agent should put them in a hotel where they should self-isolate until they can get onboard, and arrange direct transfer to their vessel.

Hong Kong made the concession after unions called on shipping companies to stop seafarers working beyond the duration of their contracts.

Strict travel restrictions across the globe because of Covid-19 resulted in more than 200,000 seafarers working way beyond their contract period, some for more than a year, resulting in many cases of severe mental breakdowns among the crew.


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