Controversy Over United Airlines Crew Member Released From Quarantine In Australia After Negative Covid-19 Test

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A United Airlines crew member who arrived in Australia with symptoms of Covid-19 has been released from quarantine and was allowed to fly back to the U.S. after a test result came back negative.

Health authorities wanted to keep the crew member longer in lockup until a second test was performed but the NSW officials in charge released the flight attendant who was able to fly back home to LAX.

Australia one of the very few (democratic) countries in the world that prevent their citizens from leaving the continent unless special circumstances are presented and the country has pretty much resembled a police state in the past six months.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reported this situation with the United flight attendant came about when her flight arrived from Los Angeles last Monday.

A United Airlines crew member who arrived in Sydney with COVID-like symptoms on Monday was released from hotel quarantine within 24 hours despite a request from health authorities for more time to perform further testing.

The female crew member landed in Sydney on Monday morning from Los Angeles with symptoms and subsequently tested negative to COVID-19.

However, a government source with knowledge of the events said the woman was released to fly home to the US after lobbying by an airline executive, despite NSW Health quarantine teams wanting to retain her for a second test. …

A United Airlines spokesman said the flight attendant travelled back to the US as a passenger because she was “medically cleared by MedAire and the NSW Health Department” after a voluntary test returned a negative result.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday announced crews would be required to isolate in one of two hotels supervised by police and NSW Health from next Tuesday, after the northern beaches cluster grew to 28 cases.

There has been no suggestion the United Airlines crew member is linked to the cluster. …

Flight Attendants Association of Australia federal secretary Teri O’Toole said many members would choose not to operate Qantas’ international repatriation flights if they had to quarantine in a hotel rather than at home.

“We will support the government’s position, however it may make a huge difference to what crew is available,” she said.

The new policy is a major shift from the existing protocol that allows air crew to stay at 25 or 26 different hotels of an airline’s choosing that are not subject to supervision. Crews are only required to isolate until their next flight. …

One source at a major airline suggested the government’s decision to take responsibility for housing crew during layovers raised concerns of “cross-contamination”.

“You’ve got airlines from low-risk countries who are now going to be housed in basically the same space as airline crew coming from COVID-19 hotspots” said the source, who requested anonymity because he did not have permission to speak publicly about the issue.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he had held a number of meetings with airlines about managing the 2000-3000 crew members arriving in NSW every week.

“We want them to continue flying. Freight and Aussies coming home are crucial, so we’re delicately negotiating,” he said. …

There have been no COVID-19 cases among international or domestic Qantas crew since late March.

Again an absolutely bonkers decision making process coming out of Australia. This crew member had nothing but symptoms that could potentially relate to Covid-19. What did the lady do? She submitted to a voluntary test and that thankfully turned out negative.

But no, that’s not enough for the NSW Health Staffel, they want to keep her locked up, testing her until maybe at some point one of the tests returns a positive result. The lady was fine, let her go!

Now someone in charge who displayed a bit of common sense and released the crew member after a United executive made some calls (probably threatening United would stop all flights) is getting flak from the media and other politicians.

These new measures and sanctions against airline crews are completely overblown and it’s very likely that crew – including Australians working for Qantas – will just call in sick for flights both in and out of Australia as the Flight Attendants Association of Australia representative confirmed as well. Who would voluntarily work these flights under such conditions?

Similar issues arose when entire cabin crews were detained by health authorities in Hong Kong after single crew members tested positive (at least there the test result was basis for the decision). Pilots were allowed to fly home while the cabin crew got locked up.

Conclusion

With these militant policies it wouldn’t surprise me if international airlines would stop flying to Australia altogether and avoid the potential fallout from confrontations with overzealous health authorities.

Let Qantas deal with repatriation and cargo transport by themselves all while there still thousands of Aussies who can’t get a flight home due to strict and ridiculously low quotas per flight and high prices for tickets.

Having international carriers cease operations would present a major problem for the Australian government as those are part of the logistics chain. Qantas would likely be unable to fill the void especially if the same measures discussed here would apply to Australian crew who would in turn refuse to work on these flights. Good luck with that!

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