'Not our problem': Anger over social distancing 'disgrace' at Sydney Airport

An Australian traveller returning home has slammed Australian Border Force agents saying they are not bothering to enforce social distancing measures at Sydney Airport, despite officials handing out information telling passengers to comply with the coronavirus rules.

A video posted online this morning showed hundreds of travellers packed into long queues at Sydney Airport as virtually no one maintained any distance from one another.

The video was posted online by former journalist Sally Prosser but was actually passed on to her by a relative who arrived in Sydney this morning with a friend who filmed the video.

Describing the scene, the passenger who wished to remain anonymous, said he was dumbstruck by the lack of concern from authorities to encourage social distancing measures.

The automatic kiosks for customs clearances were closed, he said, so passengers from multiple flights were lined up in “zig zag” queues.

“Border Force were just ushering all the passengers through ... There were at least 400 people in one room,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

“People were six inches apart.”

Concerned with what he was seeing, he confronted a Border Force officer about the complete lack of social distancing.

“I said ‘look, these people aren’t complying with national biosecurity COVID-19 (measures) that the Prime Minister was talking about’.

“He just sort of shrugged his shoulders and said ‘That’s not my problem. That’s Biosecurity not Border Force’.”

In response, the passenger replied: “I think that’s all our problem.”

While making his way through customs, he simply tried to keep his distance from the person in front of him.

“If he’s not going to do anything, I can’t do anything,” he said of the Border Force agent. “I just tried to keep my distance.”

Passengers seen queueing at Sydney Airport Thursday morning. Source: Twitter/Sally Prosser

‘Just a disgrace’

The fact that a majority of COVID-19 cases in Australia have been imported by travellers from overseas made it all the more galling.

“It’s just a disgrace that international (travellers) were being herded like this,” he said.

“When everyone got off the aircraft today, there was a quarantine man who issued a Department of Health document that stipulated to keep your distance. Everyone was supposed to read it when they were coming into our country but I don’t think many people did.

“I was really disappointed with Border Force.”

Sydney airport has rolled out digital and physical signs informing people of the social distancing requirements.

“Our priority in any crisis is the health and safety of our people and that of everyone who comes to the airport, and our ongoing response has been guided by the most up-to-date advice from health authorities,” a spokesperson from Sydney Airport told Yahoo News Australia.

“We are supporting Federal and State Government agencies as they conduct health assessments and roll out passenger information campaigns regarding self-isolation and social distancing.”  

Health advice notices are seen at Sydney International Airport on March 25, 2020. Source: Getty

Since the video was posted this morning, social media users have been highly critical of the situation.

Responding to the footage, TV presenter Lisa Wilkinson who yesterday wrote an open letter calling on the Prime Minister to lockdown the country, described the scenes at Sydney Airport as “insane”.

“This is absolute insanity,” she said. “Can these state & federal government bodies start talking to each other!

“None of these people given mandatory temperature checks. Last week, the Ruby Princess debacle today this. What next?”

Yahoo News Australia has contacted Border Force Australia and the Department of Agriculture which oversees biosecurity measures for comment.

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