Australian health chiefs seek passengers on second coronavirus flight

written by Adam Thorn | March 3, 2020

Australian health authorities are attempting to track down passengers on a second flight where a person onboard was later diagnosed with coronavirus.

The woman in her 30s was travelling on Malindo Air OD177 from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne via Denpasar, which landed at Tullamarine just after 6am on Friday, 28 February.

The news comes after NSW Health made a similar request for passengers travelling on a flight from Qatar to Sydney.

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Malindo Air Boeing 737-800 9M-LCJ operated the inaugural flight to Sydney. (Sydney Airport/Kurt Ams)
A Malindo Air Boeing 737-800

The woman at the centre of the Melbourne coronavirus case was thought to have earlier boarded a flight from Iran.

Brett Sutton, Victoria’s chief health officer, said that, because it will take a while to track down those seated near the infected passenger, everyone on the flight should be vigilant.

Sutton said, “From a state point of view, obviously, we want that information immediately.

“This process usually takes a few days. That’s why we put those details out about the flight so if anyone is on board the flight they can make contact with us immediately and we can give them details on what they need to do and what they need to look out for.”

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However, he played down the need to panic, saying Victorian authorities are ideally searching for those seated within two rows of the infected woman.

Sutton added, “It’s really only very close contact for a relatively prolonged period of time that puts someone at risk and it was at the very beginning of this case’s illness and so I think it’s unlikely that many people on that flight will be at risk.

“The Commonwealth is working on trying to streamline that process as best as they possibly can, but they have to work with individual airlines and their own IT systems and their data information gathering to ensure that is as official as possible.”

Earlier, NSW Health urged passengers on the Qatar Airways QR908 flight from Qatar to Sydney on 23 February to “isolate themselves” and seek a health assessment if they believe they have symptoms of coronavirus.

A woman in her 50s on that journey was confirmed as the sixth NSW case of COVID-19.

Crucially, the passenger didn’t visit the hospital until six days later, despite her symptoms showing within 24 hours.

NSW Health is trying to determine her seat and inform passengers located near her.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters, “Anyone on that flight … should be very aware that there was someone on the flight who had the coronavirus.

“If you have any doubts or thoughts that [it] may be the coronavirus, please ring ahead to your GP or ring ahead to the local emergency department so they are aware and can take the appropriate steps to keep everyone safe.”

Authorities said the woman flew from Iran to Sydney via Doha in Qatar on 23 February, but didn’t keep her flight ticker so her position was immediately unknown.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said, “NSW Health is in contact with the airline to determine where she sat and to identify passengers who sat in the rows in front of, and behind, her to alert them to the possibility that they may have been exposed to the coronavirus.”

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