BA crew member says Hong Kong quarantine is 'like a concentration camp'

·4-min read
british airways
british airways

Our destination expert Lee Cobaj argues that the BA staff member's claims are 'wildly exaggerated and deeply disrespectful'

A British Airways cabin crew member has tested positive for Covid-19 after operating a flight from London to Hong Kong, exposing passengers, crew and airport staff to the virus. As a result, the infected flight attendant was transferred to a local hospital, while the 12 remaining flight attendants who worked on flight BA31 were moved to a government facility in the countryside near Hong Kong Disneyland to undergo a mandatory 14-day stint in quarantine. 

It is believed that the pilots were allowed to return to the United Kingdom, as they were wearing masks and isolated in the flight deck for the majority of the flight. It is not known whether any passengers were also subject to the quarantine order. 

The story hit the headlines yesterday when one of the quarantined cabin crew, Ellie Freeman, took to social media to complain that the government-run facility resembled 'a literal concentration camp,' a claim which is wildly exaggerated and deeply disrespectful to peoples who have and continue to suffer in actual concentration camps. 

Although the accommodation is simple, each air-conditioned single room is kitted out with a proper bed, an ensuite shower room, hairdryer, kettle, a television and Wi-Fi. Unlike the 'prison', which Freeman had described, people are allowed to walk around outside between the temporary buildings to get exercise and fresh air and chat with others at a safe distance.   

The flight attendant also repeatedly sneered about the food, which is provided three times a day for free, and includes a wide range of options from breakfast croissants to sweet and sour chicken to spaghetti bolognese, as well as snacks, such as cup noodles and Digestive biscuits. Other in-room supplies include welcome kits, with shampoo, shower gel, and toothpaste; and care packages are allowed to be delivered. 

ellie freeman facebook - ellie freeman/facebook
ellie freeman facebook - ellie freeman/facebook

When asked by The Telegraph for comment on the incident British Airways only said, 'Our teams in Hong Kong and London are helping to care for our cabin crew members, providing them with support and additional supplies to make sure their stay is as comfortable as possible, after the authorities requested they quarantine in accordance with local Covid-19 regulations.'  

Regulations which have been in place in Hong Kong for six months but which Freeman seemed to be completely unaware of. Since Hong Kong closed its borders to non-residents in late March, it has been a stipulation that any visitors, including flight crew, undergo a Covid-19 PCR antigen test on arrival. Residents who test negative are then required to quarantine at home or in an approved hotel at their own cost for 14 days. Anyone who tests positive is sent to a hospital isolation ward until they produce two negative coronavirus tests, while passengers or crew who have come into close contact with a positive case are transferred to a quarantine facility to be monitored for 14 days. 

These measures may seem extreme but Hong Kong's stringent border controls have played a large part in successfully suppressing the virus; to date Hong Kong, a densely-packed city of 7.4 million, has recorded 5,059 cases and 105 deaths, without ever needing a full lockdown. In her Snapchat posts, Freeman showed no concern for the fact that her colleague could have carried the virus back into a city which has worked so hard to crush Covid-19 or that they may have exposed everyone onboard the aircraft to the deadly coronavirus. 

So while British Airways may say that "we work closely with governments in every country we fly to, and always put the safety and wellbeing of our teams and customers at the heart of everything we do," the airline also allowed a crew member who was positive for Covid-19 to work on a flight potentially exposing hundreds of passengers and airport workers to the virus. 

When asked whether their crew are tested before operating flights British Airways declined to answer but employees at the company have confirmed that flight crew are not tested prior to duty. Also lacking is the airline's training on racial bias and cultural sensitivity, as evidenced by Freeman's insulting social media posts.  

With cases surging across the country, Great Britain has been added to Hong Kong's list of high-risk destinations, alongside Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, South Africa and the United States. Effective from October 1, all arrivals will need to provide a negative Covid-19 result prior to boarding their flight.    

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting