Hong Kong – Hong Kong’s main airline, Cathay Pacific, on Saturday backed down on its refusal to allow its flight attendants to wear face masks to protect themselves against swine flu.
The change of policy came after the confirmation of East Asia’s first swine-flu case in Hong Kong on Friday night and an appeal from the city’s health secretary, York Chow.
It also came after the chairwoman of the Flight Attendants Union sent out an appeal to her 5,000 members to defy the face-mask ban.
‘In light of the escalating concerns with the global threat, … we understand some of our staff may be anxious about the situation and wish to wear a mask,’ a Cathay Pacific spokeswoman said. ‘Therefore, for personal considerations, staff choosing to wear masks may do so. They should discuss this with their supervisors.’
Chow earlier told reporters: ‘If airline staff actually feel unwell and uncomfortable not wearing a mask, I think they [employers] should be more flexible and allow them to wear masks.’
Union chairwoman Becky Kwan said: ‘We are very pleased. Before this happened we sent an e-mail to members telling them to put their own personal safety first and wear masks and gloves if they wanted to.
Flight attendants at Cathay Pacific last wore face masks during the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which killed 299 people in Hong Kong and infected around 1,800.
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