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Union calls on FedEx to suspend Hong Kong service over COVID-19 rules

July 29 (UPI) -- A union representing FedEx pilots has urged the company to suspend service to Hong Kong, citing unacceptable risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Air Line Pilots Association urged in a statement for the service to be suspended on Tuesday after three asymptomatic FedEx pilots who tested positive for the coronavirus were "forced" into mandated hospital facilities for up to 10 days in the Chinese semi-autonomous city.

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The union added that several pilots who tested negative for the virus but had been in close contact with a positive person were "put into government camps under extremely difficult conditions."

"Not only do these situations pose unacceptable risks to our pilots' safety and wellbeing, but they also create added stress and distraction for flight operations," ALPA Master Executive Council chairman Capt. Dave Chase said in a statement. "While the COVID-19 global pandemic rages on, FedEx pilots continue to provide essential services, operating in extremely challenging and ever-changing environments and constantly adapting to new government mandates and restrictions around the globe."

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Chase said Hong Kong's government mandates for virus testing "have created unacceptable conditions" for its pilots, stating those who test positive face compulsory admission and treatment in public hospitals where as many as five patients share a room with a single bathroom while anyone who is found to have been exposed to a positive case is placed in government quarantine for two weeks with "very sparse provisions."

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FedEx confirmed in a statement to South China Morning Post that it has been engaging Hong Kong government authorities to support its crewmembers requiring medical treatment or self-isolation.

"Our operations in Asia-Pacific are vital to our global network, and we are proud of the way our entire FedEx team has continued to operate through difficult circumstances to keep the global supply chain moving around the world," the U.S. multinational delivery service said.

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The announcement came as Hong Kong battles a spike in cases, reporting 106 new cases on Tuesday of which 48 cases were linked to previous infections but with 50 of unknown origin.

The new numbers lift its total infections to 2,884.

The Hong Kong government on Wednesday announced in a release tightened testing and quarantine mandates for sea and air crew, stating all those who enter the country via the international airport must test negative for the virus 48 hours prior to boarding the vessel for the Chinese city. They must also provide a throat saliva sample upon arrival, the government said.

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"We are at a critical juncture in combating the acute situation of epidemic," a government spokesman said in a statement. "Although the testing and quarantine arrangements will have an impact on the aviation and maritime industry, we consider it necessary to adopt stringent measures at this time."

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