'Open the door and run': Confronting Covid instructions to Qantas staff

·News Reporter
·3-min read

Concerned Qantas staff members have claimed they were "put at risk" when they were instructed to open the doors of a flight from Papua New Guinea where a passenger had tested positive to Covid-19.

The employees at Brisbane Airport were reportedly told to "open the door [of the plane] and run" on May 7 after being informed about the positive case just half an hour before the Air Niugini flight landed, a long-term worker told The Courier-Mail.

Qantas is the ground handling agent for a number of airlines at the airport.

“No one could believe it... We were put at risk, with no explanation of how an infected passenger flight could have been allowed to land," a Qantas worker said.

A plane arrives on a tarmac.
Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said there was no threat to employees. Source: Getty Images, file

The worker said staff followed the instruction while wearing masks and gloves.

The man on the flight had previously completed 14 days of quarantine after testing positive to Covid-19, an Air Niugini spokesperson told the newspaper.

The passenger had initially tried to fly on May 6 but was turned away as his "paperwork was not in order".

He returned the following day with a doctor's exemption that explained he was continuing to test positive despite not being infectious.

Qantas confirmed its ground staff had followed a clearly defined set of protocols when the flight arrived.

"There are a number of strict procedures in place for managing aircraft arriving from overseas," an airline official told AAP.

Yahoo News Australia has contacted the Department of Home Affairs for clarification regarding requirements for PNG passengers flying into Australia.

Man now in Queensland quarantine

Addressing the matter on Wednesday, Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said there was "no need" for the panic on the ground as the man was a historic case.

She said the Australian Border Force had approved the man for travel.

The man is in quarantine in Queensland alongside the other 60 passengers on the flight. He is not being treated as an active case.

When Yahoo News Australia questioned Queensland Health on which personnel were required to open flight doors and disembark passengers, a spokesperson said: "All international passengers are met by border and health officials on arrival."

Papua New Guinea is in the midst of a spike in cases, with its current 12,493 cases feared to be vastly underreported as the country's fragile health system is unable to conduct mass testing.

The outbreak has prompted warnings from the World Health Organisation while PNG health officials worry that the country's small health system could be overwhelmed by the wave of infections.

In March, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said a recent Covid testing sample of 500 people had returned a positive rate of 50 per cent.

The infected passenger is an Australian passport holder, according to The Courier-Mail.

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