The Transport Workers Union has accused Qantas of putting its staff at risk of the coronavirus. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images
The Transport Workers Union has accused Qantas of putting its staff at risk of the coronavirus. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

Qantas accused of putting staff at risk

Qantas has been accused of not doing enough to protect its workers from the coronavirus after an outbreak among baggage handlers at Adelaide Airport.

Eleven baggage handlers have now tested positive for the virus, with two further cases among family members, taking the cluster of cases to 13.

More than 100 other people related to the cluster, either fellow workers or close contacts, are also in self-isolation.

Qantas says it is working with SA Health to trace other employees who might have had contact with the baggage handlers, who will now be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

The airline said it was also working to minimise any disruptions to customers flying in and out of Adelaide, although passenger numbers were significantly reduced due to government travel restrictions.

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In addition to enhanced cleaning measures introduced at airports and on aircraft, Qantas said it was also conducting extensive cleaning of common areas used by employees in Adelaide.

 

Anyone who has visited the airport over the past 14 days and has developed symptoms is now advised to get tested. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images
Anyone who has visited the airport over the past 14 days and has developed symptoms is now advised to get tested. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

But Transport Workers Union (TWU) branch secretary Ian Smith said there was "worrying evidence" that the virus had been allowed to spread among airport staff because of "lax systems" in place.

"We are informed that following an initial infection not enough protections were put in place to stop the spread," he said.

"This is very serious as it means Qantas allowed its workers and workers in other companies to become exposed through its own negligence."

The TWU has accused Qantas of downplaying the risk of infection to staff, and has now asked the airline to provide information and documents under workplace health and safety laws regarding the infection of the baggage handlers.

It has also contacted Adelaide Airport and SafeWork SA over the issue.

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Premier Steven Marshall said he would be guided by expert advice. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images
Premier Steven Marshall said he would be guided by expert advice. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

Health officials have so far ruled out closing down the airport completely.

"We have identified a cluster and we've moved very quickly in terms of cleaning and in terms of isolating that cluster," deputy chief public health officer Michael Cusack said on Wednesday.

"We feel confident the airport is able to continue operations."

"To be very clear, we will take our advice from the health professionals," Premier Steven Marshall added.

"Whatever advice that is, we'll put it action straight away, regardless of what it is."

The new airport cases were among 30 confirmed across SA on Wednesday, taking the state's total to 367.

Anyone who has visited the airport over the past 14 days and who has since developed symptoms is now advised to get tested and self-isolate.

Originally published as Qantas accused of putting staff at risk


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