Taiwan's EVA Air sacks pilot blamed for rare local COVID case
TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan's EVA Airways Corp on Wednesday fired a New Zealand pilot whom the government blamed for the island's first locally transmitted case of COVID-19 since April 12 for breaking disease prevention regulations did not obey.
Taiwan has kept the pandemic well under control thanks to early and effective prevention methods and widespread use of masks. All new cases in more than the last 250 days are among the travelers arriving on the island.
However, the government was rocked by the announcement of the domestic infection of a woman who is friends with a New Zealand pilot who has been confirmed to have been infected earlier this week after flying routes to the United States.
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The case sparked public anger when a Taiwanese television station labeled the pilot an "enemy of the state" after the government said he had not reported all of his contacts and locations and did not wear a face mask in the cockpit when he should.
EVA Air said a meeting of its disciplinary committee found the pilot violated government regulations, including the Communicable Disease Transmission Act, and decided to terminate him with immediate effect.
"EVA Air has always followed government guidelines for epidemic prevention and most of the crew have also followed epidemic prevention guidelines," it said.
"However, the behavior of a single employee has undermined everyone's efforts to prevent epidemics."
EVA Air, like most airlines, has a very reduced flight schedule due to global border restrictions.
Neither the airline nor the government have named the pilot who is being treated in the hospital. It was not possible to reach him for comment.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said earlier Wednesday that 170 of the woman's contacts had tested negative for the virus, while three more are awaiting results. Taiwan has reported a total of 777 cases - mostly imported - and seven deaths. Around 130 people remain in hospital for treatment.
($ 1 = 28.1610 Taiwan dollars)
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Tom Hogue and Chizu Nomiyama)
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