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New South Wales has recorded a new locally acquired case of Covid-19 after a van driver transporting international airline crew to and from Sydney airport contracted the virus.
The health minister, Brad Hazzard, said the case was discovered Wednesday morning.
“A 45-year-old gentleman, who had symptoms on Saturday, was tested yesterday, being Tuesday, and just after seven this morning, a positive result from his test was given. Obviously, there will be more work to do, this is very preliminary advice to the community on the basis that NSW Health and the government has always shared all information about communities as soon as possible,” he said.
“This gentleman drives vans, carrying international and other air crew back and forth to the airport … the virus seemed to be contained in terms of community transmission, our most exposed areas included.”
The chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said the man was wearing a mask and following Covid-19 safety precautions while driving.
This case has raised questions around the need for quarantining of international airline crews, who were also linked to the state’s last locally acquired Covid-19 case – a hotel quarantine cleaner who was diagnosed on 3 December.
Hazzard said this would now be a key area of discussion at national cabinet.
“I had a discussion along with senior health officials and a number of international airline representatives, we canvassed with them the fact that NSW Health and the government health [department] were very concerned about the possibility of the virus coming in with international aircrew,” he said.
“You remember we had the 66-year-old lady in the Ibis hotel two weeks ago. That would appear on the basis of genomic sequencing to have most likely been connected with a US air crew, as the sequencing showed top matches across the world were actually from the US. We were discussing what further steps we could take.”
Guardian Australia contacted the major international airlines – including Qantas, Qatar and Emirates – to ask about discussions with Australian state and territory governments about any changes to quarantine procedures under consideration after Hazzard flagged plans to test airline staff and passengers.
Hazzard told the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday: “We’re exploring whether airlines are able to test passengers and airline staff before they board an international flight as well as whether it’s viable to then test them again upon arrival in Australia.
“We need international freight and passenger flights to continue to come to NSW. We all know the challenges we face, the question is how to make it safer,” he said.
But a Qantas spokesman said: “It’s a bit too early for us to be commenting on this as it seems the policy is still being worked through and what it would look like in practice.”
Emirates and Qatar are yet to respond. The Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia told Guardian Australia the union had not been invited to be a part of any of those discussions.
Three household contacts of the infected man, who lives in Alexandria, have been isolated and results from their initial tests were expected later on Wednesday morning.
She also noted that those who attended a community sports facility may need to isolate but said the exact details of the location needed to be confirmed before she made any announcements.
“Obviously we will update that, but our preliminary information is that we will be looking at the trips that he has undergone, the people he has escorted, between the airport and the hotels, but again, his contact in those settings was to basically help people out with their baggage,” she said.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: NSW records new local Covid case, raising questions over airline crew quarantine | New South Wales