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Search on for 2 Covid-19 positive Filipino sailors, but arrest not likely

01 August 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap
The 2 missing seafarers flew separately to HK from Manila on Jul 24

Hong Kong health officials say they have enlisted the help of the police and Immigration Department in locating two Filipino sailors who could not be contacted after testing positive for Covid-19 on arrival at the airport on Jul 24.

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan said at the press briefing today, Jul 31, that the sailors may have already left Hong Kong.

She identified them as cases no 2336 and 2251, and their vessel as Gulf Fanatic.

CHP records show that Case 2336 is a 46-year-old male who arrived in Hong Kong from Manila on Jul 24 via Hongkong Airlines Flight HX 782.

Case No 2251, on the other hand, is a 37-year-old male who arrived from Manila on the same day via Cathay Pacific Flight CX 906.

“We have not located the seafarers yet, maybe they have left Hong Kong,” Chuang said. “But we will check with Immigration Department.”
Despite the effort to track them down, it is not likely that the missing sailors will be arrested as the law only punishes people who violate quarantine rules, and no
t for disappearing prior to being transferred to an isolation facility.

This apparent loophole was shown in the case of a 37-year-old local woman who reportedly left her house in Homantin to go shopping, while waiting to be transferred to a hospital after testing positive for Covid-19.

Her case also highlighted the long wait for hospital faced by those who test positive, amid record rises in infections.

For the past few days, more than 100 confirmed or preliminary positive cases have been told to stay at  home while waiting for isolation beds to be cleared for them.

A reporter at the press briefing said the police did not arrest the errant patient, but merely booked the incident under “miscellaneous cases.”

Chuang said they needed to find out more about the case, but the information they got was the woman had gone out to buy stuff to prepare for her hospital stay.

“We advise confirmed cases that while waiting to be admitted they should not go out,” said Chuang.

But she said the laws only prohibit those under quarantine from going out. “Before they are admitted we don’t have any laws that will bind them.”

That’s because ideally, patients who are confirmed to have the coronavirus must be admitted to hospital as soon as possible, she said.

Still, she said confirmed patients must not go out so as not to endanger the safety of the public.
Dr Chuang says all infected patients must be isolated to protect public health safety 

As for the Filipino sailors, the samples they left at the AsiaWorld-Expo testing site on arrival tested positive the next day, but they could no longer be located.

Another sailor from India who tested positive on the same day was tracked and transferred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei.
Hong Kong health protocols used to exempt all air and sea crew from the mandatory testing at the airport, and from the 14-day quarantine, as they often are in the city for only a short period of time.

But since the restrictions were tightened on Jul 8 amid a surge in infections, they have all been required to leave saliva samples at the airport, before heading off to their quarantine facilities or ships.

This has led to a small number of seafarers disappearing from Hong Kong’s radar after the samples they left at the airport tested positive for Covid-19.

Rules were tightened further starting Jul 29, when air and sea crew who get tested at the airport are prohibited from taking public transportation, or mingling with the public until they return a negative result.

Non-Hong Kong based air crew members are also made to wait for their test result at AsiaWorld-Expo, and could only proceed to their isolation facilities if they test negative.

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