About 750 Qantas staff working at Adelaide Airport have been asked to self-quarantine for two weeks amid concerns over a cluster of coronavirus cases that has spread from baggage handlers to other airline staff.
The move comes as South Australia recorded no new virus cases on Sunday but also confirmed a fourth death from the disease.
The airline cluster stands at 34, including 18 baggage handlers, 13 of their close contacts and three other Qantas staff.
And while no new cases were added to that tally, SA’s Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said those recently included indicated a spread to other areas of the airline’s operations.
She said there were now concerns for people who worked as airport duty managers, pilot and cabin crew managers and for people who used an area where the airline’s engineers were located.
“For this reason, we’ll be requesting approximately 750 Qantas staff who have worked in those three areas since the 18th of March to self-isolate and be in quarantine immediately,” Prof Spurrier said.
Qantas has sent an email to all staff and SA Health is also accessing mobile phone numbers to contact each person.
The airline said it would comply with the self-isolation directive and would continue to work closely with SA Health to identify any employee who might have had contact with a colleague with the virus.
While the Australian Services Union said it would be watching carefully the payment and support arrangements put in place for the workers affected.
“Qantas staff who have been exposed in the course of doing their job need to be paid in full for the work they could have reasonably expected to do,” the union’s SA secretary Abbie Spencer said.
The concern is specific to the Qantas operations and does not extend to public areas of the airport.
However, a general call remains in place for anyone who attended the airport in recent weeks and who develops respiratory systems to get tested.
Sunday’s good news on infections was the first time SA had no new cases since March 10, leaving the state’s total at 429. Of those 14 remain in hospital with six in intensive care.
Prof Spurrier said 239 people had now recovered.
SA Health also confirmed the death of a 74-year-old man succumbed to the virus in the Royal Adelaide Hospital overnight.
He contracted COVID-19 as a passenger on the Ruby Princess cruise ship.
Prof Spurrier said the lower number of new cases in SA in recent days was a good sign.
“I suspect that we are in this very, very fortunate position in South Australia….that we are really getting on top of this,” she said.
“It’s important though to realise this is a new virus and we don’t know everything about this disease.”
She said restrictions put in place to halt the spread of the virus should be maintained, something echoed by Premier Steven Marshall.
“We can’t take our foot off the brake. We need a lot more data before we can even talk about lifting any of the restrictions.”
Originally published as No new cases in SA, but airport a concern