A Virgin Australia flight attendant may have infected “multiple” passengers with the highly infectious Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus during a short flight last Saturday from Gold Coast to Sydney according to New South Wales health officials who issued an urgent alert this weekend.
The flight attendant tested positive for COVID-19 on June 26 but the test was only performed after they had worked five flights in quick succession. Although asymptomatic, the flight attendant was subject to routine rapid testing and was put into isolation as soon as their positive result came back.
It was only then discovered, however, that the flight attendant had been identified as a close contact of an existing case but contact tracers hadn’t yet got round to getting in touch with them.
“NSW Health wishes to alert passengers who flew from the Gold Coast to Sydney on a previously announced Virgin flight, as multiple COVID-19 transmissions have now occurred on this flight,” the overstretched agency said on Sunday.
“All passengers are considered close contacts and must be vigilant in monitoring for symptoms and remaining in isolation for the full 14 days, regardless of their results,” the public health alert continued.
Researchers have previously considered that the risk of being infected with COVID-19 on a flight by another passenger or crew member is far greater on long-haul flights. The flight time between Gold Coast and Sydney is just 1.5 hours.
Virgin Australia said the flight attendant always wore a face mask onboard and “adhered to infection control and COVID safe protocols implemented by Virgin Australia throughout the course of duty.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the flight attendant had been vaccinated against COVID-19 or had been offered the vaccine.
“The affected crew member is a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case from a known cluster in Sydney. Virgin Australia understands the crew member was not aware they were a close contact of a positive case until after they completed their last flight today,” a statement provided by the airline last week continued.
The risk to the wider public should, however, be relatively low as all the passengers onboard Virgin Austalia flight VA524 were ordered into quarantine last week.
Virgin Australia has been contacted for comment.
Photo Credit: Peterfz30 / Shutterstock.com
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.