Passengers on a flight from Melbourne to Sydney last night disembarked without being screened by NSW Health officials, in a major breach of the state’s coronavirus protocols.
- The mistake was revealed in an email that was leaked to the ABC
- The email also warned there could be “a lot of media attention” about the incident
- The passengers from last night’s flight are supposed to be self-isolating for 14 days
An email from Sydney Airport leaked to the ABC claims Jetstar breached NSW Government health orders by allowing travellers on flight JQ520, which landed at 6:53pm, to get off without being checked.
“The final JQ flight arrived and staff enabled disembarkation without NSW Health and police in attendance, breaching the arrivals screening protocols,” the email read.
Forty-eight passengers were on board the flight and some were contacted in the terminal once they dispersed.
Yesterday, the NSW Government introduced new laws that banned anyone from Greater Melbourne travelling to NSW except under “exceptional circumstances”, such as accessing urgent medical care or fulfilling legal obligations.
The breach means all passengers on the plane — who would be required to self-isolate for two weeks — were allowed into Sydney without scrutiny.
Screening includes temperature checks and a series of health questions. The traveller’s home address in Victoria is also verified, and anyone who appears symptomatic is tested for COVID-19.
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant confirmed there was “an issue” at the airport.
“The airport has now put in protocols to ensure that the health teams are there and able to do the screening, and no-one is allowed to disembark before that happens,” she said.
“All of those individuals are known, obviously you get tickets when you’re on a plane, we are in the process of tracing them up, if anyone is found to have travelled in breach of any orders we’ll refer them to police and take the appropriate action, depending on whether anyone is symptomatic, to ensure the community is protected.”
Jetstar said it had “refined” its disembarkation procedures following the incident.
“We assisted by locating passengers in the terminal who had disembarked without being screened and provided the aircraft manifest to the department to assist them in contacting passengers,” a spokesperson said.
Jetstar also said Victoria Health performed temperature and ID checks on passengers before they left Victoria.
Flight touched down amid NSW-Victoria border closure
From today, restrictions tightened further and all Victorians are banned from travelling to NSW unless they live in a border community or qualify for an “exceptional circumstances” exemption.
Anyone caught crossing the border illegally faces a fine of up to $11,000 or six months in jail.
The email leaked to the ABC said three flights had arrived in Sydney from Melbourne in close succession last night.
“Coincidentally, there was a media presence that captured the entire event unfolding and this may attract some attention over the next 24 hours,” it read.
Authorities have conceded there will be some flexibility in the first 72 hours of the border closure.
Further south in the border community of Albury-Wodonga, some people who could not access a permit were still being allowed to cross the border if they could prove they were exempt.
Earlier this week, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said mandatory screening would apply to all passengers arriving from Victoria at Sydney Airport and at Central Station.
“Any passengers who display any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, are tested for the virus and directed to self-isolate,” he said.
“Any passenger who is identified as coming from a hotspot and does not meet the very strict eligibility for travel is directed to NSW Police officers.”