Due to exemptions defined by the peak decision-making committee for public health in Australia, Qantas cabin crew were not required to quarantine despite later testing positive for COVID-19.
According to new rules for Qantas and Virgin Australia staff operating government-subsidised repatriation flights, flight crew are exempt from quarantine requirements, provided they do not leave their hotels.
The quarantine exemption for crew has been sanctioned by Australia’s chief medical officer through the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, and has been in place since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
However, it now includes extra measures off the back of the formation of the ‘International Aviation Network’.
After operating a repatriation flight from Chile, four of Qantas’ cabin crew tested positive for COVID-19. However, unlike passengers who were put into isolation for 14 days in city hotels, according to The Guardian, the Qantas staff did not have to go into self-isolation.
The flight from Santiago landed in Sydney on 29 March. Travel Weekly has reached out to Qantas for comment.
However, speaking to ABC News, a group spokesman said the four were among 50 Qantas and Jetstar staff who have tested positive for COVID-19.
According to Qantas insiders speaking to The Guardian, some of the airline’s COVID-19 cases are associated with flights that contained Ruby Princess passengers who have since tested positive for the virus.
The news follows the federal government’s announcement of the formation of the International Aviation Network, established in collaboration with Virgin Australia and Qantas to bring home Australians trapped overseas due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
A continuing network of government-subsidised flights to four key international hubs will be established — London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Auckland — for the next four weeks to help Australians get home.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said the message to Australians overseas is clear: they should not hesitate if they have an opportunity to take commercial flights home.
“Many Australians will be able to get to one of these four destinations. They can do so knowing there will be an Australian airline to get them home,” Payne said in a joint statement with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.
“We recognise that, in some cases, this will not be possible. We will continue to work closely with airlines and our overseas consular assistance network in these situations.
“Where there are no commercial options available, the government will consider supporting, on a case-by-case basis, non-scheduled services to other overseas destinations.
“We are continuing our constructive discussions with Qantas and Virgin on flights to less accessible destinations, including South America and the Pacific.”
According to The Australian, McCormack was unable to say what funding the government had allocated for the flights, on top of $1 billion in financial assistance for the aviation industry.
“We will underwrite anything that is a cost to either Virgin or Qantas,” McCormack said.
“We want to get Australians home as best and as soon as we can. Of course, we might offset the cost by sending out exports in the belly of those planes.”