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Covid drama for stranded travellers at airport

2020-06-25 HKT 15:53
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  • Eleven mainland travellers were stuck in limbo at the airport for almost five days after being exposed to Covid-19, with no boarding passes to take them home. File Photo: AFP
    Eleven mainland travellers were stuck in limbo at the airport for almost five days after being exposed to Covid-19, with no boarding passes to take them home. File Photo: AFP
It’s a scenario that sounds like it was lifted out of the 2004 Hollywood comedy The Terminal: 11 air passengers board an overseas flight without boarding tickets to their intended final destination, only to get stuck in a transit zone at an airport.

The difference? These passengers were stuck for just five days instead of many months, and there’s an added twist – they have also been exposed to a potentially deadly virus that has circled the globe.

This unusual combination of events happened to a group of 11 mainland travellers who boarded Emirates flight EK380 from Dubai on June 20.

The Airport Authority said on Thursday that even though they had intended to catch another flight back to the mainland, none of them had any boarding passes.

On top of that, existing coronavirus travel restrictions meant they weren’t able to arrange transit flights at the airport, or leave Chek Lap Kok because they’re barred from entering Hong Kong.

Under the regulations, they must have arranged for the connecting flight from their point of origin – under the same air ticket.

This means they were left stuck in a restricted area at the airport for five days.

Emirates arranged for one traveller to fly back to Dubai on Wednesday, however, the other ten refused to take the flight.

What further complicated the matter was that 26 Hong Kong residents who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 had taken the same flight from Dubai.

The Centre for Health Protection was notified of the situation on Wednesday, and arranged the ten mainlanders to be sent to a quarantine camp in Chai Wan on the same day.

One of them subsequently fell ill as they were being tested for the virus, and was taken to Eastern Hospital.

University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said they never should have been allowed to stay at the airport for such a long period of time, because they should have been treated as close contacts of the infected passengers.

“These close contacts could’ve been infected and spread the virus to other passengers and airport staff,” he said.


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Last updated: 2020-06-25 HKT 22:37