Airport bungle mixed 'high-risk' passengers with NZ travellers

Ash Cant
·3-min read

A breach has occurred at a Queensland airport on Thursday after two passengers travelling from a Covid-hit country were waved through to the "green zone".

The mix-up was confirmed by both Queensland Health and the Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) in separate media statements on Thursday evening.

At around 9.30am on Thursday, two passengers arrived at Brisbane International Airport on a 'red' flight from Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.

Passengers enter the International Airport in Brisbane, Saturday, December 12, 2020.
A 'human error' resulted in two passengers travelling from Papua New Guinea allowed in a 'green' departure zone by mistake. Source: AAP

Papua New Guinea, Australia's nearest neighbour, has recorded almost 1000 new Covid cases in the past week, along with 16 deaths.

Instead of being directed to the airport's red departure zone, which is designated for people flying in from higher risk countries, the two were "inadvertently" directed to the green departure zone.

"The passengers were seated at a retail outlet within the green zone until approximately 11.20am," BAC said in a statement.

"The passengers then used the bathroom and attended another retailer before they were located by BAC staff and returned to the ‘red zone’. They were in the green zone for just under two hours."

BAC said within the two-hour period, the travellers shared the space with about 390 passengers waiting to travel on three 'green' flights to New Zealand.

Queensland Health confirmed those three flights were Air New Zealand NZ202 from Brisbane to Christchurch, Air New Zealand NZ146 from Brisbane to Auckland, and Qantas QF135 from Brisbane to Christchurch.

Though BAC said at this time, only a "handful" of passengers on those flights were in the vicinity of the two passengers from Papua New Guinea.

"BAC is conducting a thorough investigation and unreservedly apologises for this human error," it said in the statement.

The response to the incidence is being led by Queensland Health and is working with the New Zealand Ministry of Health.

Papua New Guinea 'low risk' to others

In a statement, Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the two passengers were low risk to others at the airport.

“It is our understanding that both tested negative in PNG prior to departure,” Dr Young said.

“While at the airport, they wore masks and socially distanced and neither has reported symptoms."

On Thursday afternoon, both the passengers were tested in Brisbane.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young is seen during a press conference in Brisbane, Friday, April 2, 2021
Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said it is believed the two passengers tested negative for Covid-19 before departing Papua New Guinea. Source: AAP

One passenger has tested negative for Covid-19, the other's test did not indicate either a positive or negative result and more samples have been sent off for further testing.

“They were in the wrong zone through no fault of their own and we appreciate their patience and cooperation while we rule them out as cases," Dr Young said.

Queensland Health said it was not responsible for security at the airport, however the statement did praise the swift response after realising the mistake.

Queensland Health on Thursday also reported a fourth positive case who was already in hotel quarantine after arriving from Papua New Guinea.

The island nation has recorded 10,915 Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic and 107 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Daily new infections peaked around the end of March but official statistics are believed to show only part of the picture.

With AAP

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