Two former Cathay Pacific flight attendants have been jailed for eight weeks each for breaching Covid-19 home quarantine rules last December. The pair, who had been infected with the Omicron variant, were accused by health authorities at the time of helping to trigger the fifth and deadliest wave of infections in the city.

A Cathay Pacific flight. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The Eastern Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday handed prison terms to Wong Yoon-loong, 45, and Nilsson Lau, 44, who were found guilty last month of “being a person subject to medical surveillance [who] failed to observe the conditions specified by a health officer,” local media reported.

Wong and Lau returned to Hong Kong from the US on December 24 and 25 last year, respectively. They were subject to isolation at home for three days, during which they were allowed to go out for exercise or to buy food, medical supplies and daily necessities.

But the pair left their homes for “totally unnecessary activities,” Magistrate Edward Wong remarked on Thursday, according to local media. Defendant Wong was said to have visited Lau at his home on the day he arrived back in the city.

Eastern Magistrates’ Courts. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Lau went shopping in Festival Walk and had lunch at the Moon Palace restaurant, which later saw the first Omicron cluster in the city.

Local health authorities subsequently confirmed that Wong and Lau were carrying the highly-mutated variant. They were fired by the airline and arrested in January.

Magistrate Edward Wong described the case as “serious,” saying the duo had abused the privileges offered by the government to aircrew which allowed them to isolate at home instead of in a designated hotel.

Their actions eventually caused nine citizens to become infected, the court said, as the magistrate set nine weeks of imprisonment as the starting point of punishment for the two. They were given a one-week deduction, after the court took into account the fact that they lost their jobs due to the breach of Covid rules.

The pair originally pleaded guilty in April, but their pleas were rejected by the magistrate, who said their “honest and reasonable belief” that they had not breached the rules could “amount to a defence.” The magistrate then ordered the case to move to trial.

Hong Kong’s fifth wave of infections, which began in late December last year, pushed the daily caseload from single digits to close to 70,000 infections a day when the outbreak peaked in March. So far, 10,549 Covid-19 patients have died since the start of the fifth wave.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.