Passengers from five different Virgin Australia flights are being urged to isolate and get tested after a cabin crew member tested positive for COVID-19.
The crew member is believed to have been a close contact of a positive case from a known cluster in Sydney, which they were unaware of until after completing their last flight on Friday.
Virgin said the affected team member is now in isolation and it has ordered all other team members who worked on the same flights to cease flying, get tested and isolate.
“Any close contact team members will be removed from their rostered duties and will be required to isolate for a minimum of 14 days and test in accordance with appropriate State health protocols,” the airline said in a statement.
“In addition, Virgin Australia has asked that household members of close contact team members be tested and isolate for a minimum 14 days in line with state health guidelines.”
NSW Health identified five flights across three states that the crew member worked on while believed to be infectious including VA939 Sydney-Brisbane and VA334 Brisbane-Melbourne on 25 June; and VA827 Melbourne-Sydney, VA517 Sydney-Gold Coast and VA524 Gold Coast-Sydney on 26 June.
The airline has handed over flight manifests to state health authorities, and said passengers will be contacted and advised on the correct protocol.
Health alerts from the NSW, Queensland and Victorian state governments advise anyone who was on board these flights should get tested immediately and isolate until they return a negative result.
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.
Given the border restrictions in place for NSW at the time, Virgin said all flights except VA334 were carrying a limited number of passengers for essential travel only and the crew member always wore a mask when interacting with passengers and complied with all requirements implemented by state health authorities.
The aircraft that operated the affected flights are being deep cleaned along with any Virgin spaces the employee visited. Virgin is also working with relevant airports to ensure all public spaces are also being deep cleaned.
Michael Kaine national secretary at the Transport Union Workers’ Union (TWU), said it was “inexcusable” that many frontline workers, particularly those travelling interstate in “tightly packed aircraft” have not yet been vaccinated against the virus.
“Aviation workers were among the first and most drastically affected by this pandemic,” he said.
“[The federal government’s] failure to implement a national aviation plan, and its failure to ensure essential workers are vaccinated, has caused undue suffering and stress to workers, damaged the economy and endangered our communities.
“Over recent days, we have seen a driver linked to aviation brutally scapegoated by the NSW government, rather than admit to their failure to address known cracks in the system, which TWU’s NSW branch had previously raised as a concern.
“We ask the government to cease its condemnation of workers just trying to do their job and concentrate on the important task of keeping our communities safe.”
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the TWU called on the government to urgently update the vaccination priority list to include frontline domestic cabin crew.
The union also said rapid testing of crews before and after flights may have prevented five flights and “hundreds of passengers and their families” potentially being affected by the Delta strain outbreak.
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