More Qantas crew exempt from quarantine test positive

written by Adam Thorn | April 7, 2020
The A330 (here a -300) is the most numerous widebody in the Qantas fleet. (Seth Jaworski)
The A330 (here a -300) is the most numerous widebody in the Qantas fleet. (Seth Jaworski)

Seven more Qantas crew members who worked on a flight from Chile to Sydney but didn’t undertake quarantine have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number to 11.

The new revelation, from The Sydney Morning Herald, will put further pressure on the government to fix an apparent loophole that forces passengers, but not airline staff, to spend 14 days in a hotel after landing.

All together, 50 Qantas Group staff have now tested positive for coronavirus, including 11 Adelaide Airport baggage handlers disclosed last week.

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Qantas sources told the newspaper that police visited those who were subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19 to ensure they were now in isolation at home.

The discrepancy in rules has emerged because the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, a major decision-making body during the pandemic, issued an exception for airline crew undertaking repatriation flights.

In the next four weeks, Qantas and Virgin will resume limited international flights to Australia from London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Auckland after agreeing to help bring stranded nationals home.

“Whilst our crew have followed all Australian and other government advice when they are overseas, in some destinations the local community spread had been underestimated by local health officials,” Qantas medical director Dr Ian Hosegood said.

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“For example, previously crew were allowed to interact within hotels, and we suspect that’s how a number of crew contracted the virus in Santiago.”

Previously, Australian Aviation reported on 1 April that 11 baggage handlers working at Adelaide Airport tested positive for coronavirus. Since then, a further worker in a “public-facing” role has, too.

Then, South Australia’s deputy chief public health officer, Michael Cusack, said the risk to the public was low but “there’s absolutely no harm in giving your suitcase a wipe, particularly around the handle”.

Last week, Qantas cancelled seven Adelaide flights, include one, QF741, which was turned back to Sydney while in mid-air.

Qantas told Australian Aviation in a statement, “Since the coronavirus outbreak, we have put enhanced safety measures in place to protect our employees and customers. We are conducting additional cleaning of airport facilities and aircraft on a daily basis.

“In addition to the consistent public health messages from governments, our employees are being advised not to come to work if they were feeling unwell.”

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6 Comments

  • JL

    says:

    “Whilst our crew have followed all Australian and other government advice when they are overseas, in some destinations the local community spread had been underestimated by local health officials,” Qantas’ medical director Dr Hosegood said.

    “For example, previously crew were allowed to interact within hotels, and we suspect that’s how a number of crew contracted the virus in Santiago.”

    This is unacceptable from a company’s point of view, the employer is responsible in regards to Duty of Care and safety to create policy to protect it’s staff and to simply play it off by blaming that country’s regulations is a farse.

    QF should be held accountable by a Work Safe body for due negligence with regards to that statement.

  • Dean

    says:

    Why were QF crew permitted to flout the rules and not self-isolate? If any member of the community who should have had the strictest working conditions and isolated rules it should have been International aircrew surly?

  • John

    says:

    This is just spin from Qantas. The same 747 that took people from Tokyo to Darwin is the same 747 that operated the Chile flight. Absolute BS from qantas…..the crew were infected on the flight….as they were also carrying infected passengers back from Chile. Qantas seem to be running scared on this issue…
    give the crew support, don’t spin it out making it their fault.

  • Bene Cochran

    says:

    Ha didn’t you know that it is QANTAS we are talking about they are immune to normal rules. Seems that SIA cabin crew are going to work in non virus Hospitals looking after and being carers for non critical patents could be a job for the laid off QANTAS staff here

  • David WW Olley

    says:

    This is terrible and shows that Dr Hosegood of Qantas, and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee Members are incompetent and arrogant and should not be in their job. What a selfish bunch of individuals and they should be locked up for their misdemeanors. It is long time since I have seen Qantas and the Australain Government act in such a cavalier manner. All because of their self-interest. Shame on your Dr Hosegood and Committee Members. Who do you thin k you are?

  • Hammer

    says:

    Those rules applied to all airlines.

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