Taiwan's EVA Air says 8 sacked since March for breaching COVID rules

TAIPEI, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Taiwan’s EVA Airways Corp said on Tuesday it had sacked four pilots and four cabin crew since March for breaching rules related to preventing COVID-19 infections, adding that it was committed to enforcing anti-pandemic measures.

Last week the company said it had fired a New Zealand national who had worked as one of its pilots after the government blamed him for Taiwan’s first domestic transmission since April 12.

The case ignited public anger after the government said he had not reported all his contacts and the places he had been, nor worn a face mask in the cockpit when he should have.

In a statement, EVA Air said that since March it had sacked eight employees - four pilots and four cabin crew - for “regretfully breaching anti-pandemic rules”, though it did not give details.

“EVA Air always attaches great importance to discipline, and the vast majority of crew members on the front line of duty face transportation and epidemic prevention tasks with a cautious and serious attitude,” it added.

“EVA Air’s position on strictly following epidemic prevention has never changed.”

The government has since tightened its rules for airline crew, including on quarantines when they return to Taiwan, and has also fined EVA Air $35,000 for the New Zealand pilot incident.

EVA Air, like most airlines, is operating a very reduced schedule due to border restrictions globally.

Until last week, Taiwan had not reported domestic transmission in eight months, thanks to early and effective moves to stop the virus, including mass mask wearing and strict quarantines for all arrivals.

Taiwan has logged 795 confirmed infections, the vast majority imported, including seven deaths. A total of 127 people are currently being treated in hospital.

Wary after the domestic infection, some New Year’s Eve events around Taiwan have been scaled back or cancelled, but major celebrations are still expected to go ahead, albeit with tightened controls like mandatory mask wearing. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)