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Virgin flight with infected worker had 128 passengers onboard

written by Adam Thorn | June 27, 2021
The Virgin Boeing 737-8FE, VH-YFW msn 41037, was one of the aircraft to be deep cleaned after the incident (Victor Pody)

A Virgin Australia cabin crew member tested positive for COVID on Saturday night and had recently worked on flights between Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and the Gold Coast while likely infectious.

All but one of the flights had minimal passengers on board due to NSW border closures allowing only essential workers to fly interstate, however one flight between Brisbane and Melbourne was carrying 128 passengers. The airline said it had “deep cleaned” the aircraft involved and asked all team members who worked with the infected person to get tested and isolate.

The flights were:

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  • A Boeing 737-8FE, VH-VUS msn 36607, which departed Sydney at 12:04pm on 25 June as flight VA939 and landed in Brisbane at 1:22pm;
  • A Boeing 737-8FE, VH-YFW msn 41037, which departed Brisbane at 3:07pm on 25 June as flight VA334 and landed in Melbourne at 5:13pm;
  • A Boeing 737-8FE, VH-YFY msn 41016, which departed Melbourne at 9:12am on 26 June as flight VA827 and landed in Sydney at 10:12am.;
  • A Boeing 737-8FE, VH-VUQ msn 36606, which departed Sydney at 11:29am on 26 June as flight VA517 and landed in the Gold Coast at 12:37pm; and
  • A Boeing 737-8FE, VH-VUQ msn 36606, which departed the Gold Coast at 1:36pm on 26 June as flight VA524 and landed at Sydney at 2:43pm.

The business said in a statement, “The affected crew member is a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case from a known cluster in Sydney.

“Virgin Australia understands the crew member was not aware they were a close contact of a positive case until after they completed their last flight today.

“The crew member also had an overnight layover in Melbourne on 25 June 2021, staying at the Holiday Inn Express Southbank. While in Melbourne, the crew member remained in hotel isolation under prescribed COVID protocols for overnighting crew members from New South Wales.”

The TWU said it was working closely to ensure all Virgin workers are supported and risks minimised.

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It came as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Sunday revealed NSW had recorded 30 new cases of COVID, 11 of which were already in isolation.

Greater Sydney and surrounding areas entered a two-week lockdown on Saturday night at 6pm, as cases of the Bondi cluster grew.

“I’m convinced if we pull together, we will start seeing the results we want to achieve over the next two weeks,” Premier Berejiklian said.

Queensland on Sunday also recorded two new cases of locally acquired COVID, but it’s reported to be the Alpha strain, which is less infectious than the Delta strain currently circulating around NSW.

Late last night, New Zealand suspended the trans-Tasman bubble to all of Australia for the first time – and hinted it could restart with passengers requiring a negative test to fly.

“There are now multiple cases and outbreaks in Australia in differing stages of containment and the health risk for New Zealand in response to these cases is increasing,” said the country’s COVID Response Minister, Chris Hipkins.

Minister Hipkins said he was taking the “precautionary step of temporarily widening” the pause, which is due to end on Tuesday night.

“There are now multiple cases and outbreaks in Australia in differing stages of containment and the health risk for New Zealand in response to these cases is increasing,” he said.

“I acknowledge the frustration and inconvenience that comes with this pause, but given the high level of transmissibility of what appears to be the Delta variant, and the fact that there are now multiple community clusters, it is the right thing to do to keep COVID-19 out of New Zealand.”

The introduction of pre-flight testing would be a significant change to the arrangement, and mirror similar arrangements introduced in countries such as the UK.

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