26th July 2020 – (Hong Kong) The COVID-19 epidemic in Hong Kong is out of control. Many experts attributed one of the sources of transmission to crew members who were exempted from compulsory quarantine by the Hong Kong government, and that the government allowed crew change in Hong Kong, thereby increasing the risk of spreading the virus.
After being bombarded by the critics for several days, the government finally announced that from this Wednesday (29th) the crew change for all passenger ships and cargo ships who are not handling cargo loading and unloading in Hong Kong will be suspended, and the arrivals will be tightened including inspection and quarantine arrangements for the shift crew, crew members and other persons exempted from quarantine at the port for cargo handling.
The government said that starting from this Wednesday, it will tighten the testing and quarantine arrangements for exempted persons in response to the risk level of the relevant exemption categories. As for the crew of passenger ships and cargo ships, all crew change for passenger ships and cargo ships that have not handled cargo loading and unloading at the port will be suspended until the local epidemic is under control.
For cargo ships entering Hong Kong for cargo loading and unloading, new exemption conditions have been added and existing requirements have been tightened, including that all crew members of this type of cargo ship must stay on board and not land during the stay in the waters of Hong Kong. Crew members who need to change shifts stay on board the ship during their stay in Hong Kong must be arranged to go directly to the airport to board their flight back to their destination country, so as to avoid contact with the local community.
In addition, crew members who arrive in Hong Kong via the airport by plane from another place for crew change must be accepted by a testing agency that has ISO15189 certification or is recognised by the local government within 48 hours before leaving the place of departure, and obtain a negative test result before entry to Hong Kong.
Crew members who do not have test results will be refused entry. The crew concerned must board the ship immediately upon arrival and they are not allowed to stay in the city. The shipping company/agent must also provide the crew with point-to-point transportation to and from the ship. They are not allowed to take public transportation services. The crew must wear masks throughout the journey. Shipping companies/agents who fail to meet the above conditions will be refused to come to Hong Kong for crew replacement.
As for crew members who must travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland, Macau, Taiwan or foreign regions to perform their duties, the arriving crew members must have a testing agency approved by the local government to undergo nucleic acid testing and obtain a negative result within 48 hours before departure. Otherwise, after arriving in Hong Kong, they must go to the temporary sample collection centre of the Department of Health to submit deep throat saliva samples for virus testing and wait for the test results at the collection centre or designated location.
Meanwhile, the airline in-charge must provide point-to-point transportation arrangements for its crew members, prohibiting crew members from using transportation that will also serve the public to and from the airport and the place where they stay. Other exempt persons arriving at Hong Kong via the airport must undergo a nucleic acid test and obtain a negative result at a testing agency approved by the local government within 48 hours before departure, otherwise they must go to the temporary sample collection centre of the Department of Health to submit deep throat saliva after arriving in Hong Kong. They must then self-quarantine for 48 hours at the designated location or wait for the test results at the collection centre.