Australian Health Official Urges People on Dubai Flight to Isolate Themselves

By AAP
March 2, 2020 Updated: March 2, 2020
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Passengers who sat near a coronavirus-infected woman on a Dubai-to-Sydney flight are being advised to immediately isolate themselves at home.

A woman in her 50s flew into Australia from Iran on February 23 aboard Qatar Airways flight 908 from Dubai.

She developed symptoms of COVID-19 the next day and was tested on Saturday after attending a hospital emergency department.

NSW Health on Tuesday said the airline had passed on the infected passenger’s seat details as well as the names of those sitting nearby.

The health authority is now urging adjacent passengers—seated two rows in front and behind seat 43H—to self-isolate and contact their local GP or public health unit.

“NSW Health will contact these passengers immediately once their email or phone numbers have been provided by the relevant federal authority,” the health department said in a statement.

NSW authorities on Monday evening confirmed the first cases of locally-acquired coronavirus.

A 53-year-old male doctor is in a stable condition at Westmead Hospital and “going quite well”, Health Minister Brad Hazzard told the Nine Network on Tuesday.

The minister said it still wasn’t clear if the man had infected others after becoming contagious.

Authorities are busy talking to various people he may have come into contact with.

“We are making sure we get in contact with them and make sure they don’t have symptoms,” Hazzard said. “It’s a bit of a worry.”

The other locally-acquired case in Sydney is a 41-year-old sister of an infected man who recently returned from Iran where the virus is rampant.

NSW has now had nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 with five people diagnosed in the past week. The latest three were confirmed on Monday. Four people have recovered.

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant says the case of the health worker raised the question: “Was there a case that was missed?”

“Our key focus at the moment is to contact staff or patients that may have been close contacts of this gentleman,” she said on Monday.

Hazzard on Tuesday again cautioned NSW residents to sneeze into their elbow if a tissue wasn’t available, wash their hands regularly and pat people on the back when greeting them.

“Perhaps it is time to forget handshaking at the moment because that’s a very easy way to transmit the virus,” he said.

“If you are out and about and you put your hand on a banister on a train or railway or bus, it is possible you end up with the virus on your hands.”

The state government is also warning of a likely convergence of a COVID-19 pandemic with the annual winter flu season.

It’s announced a lowering of the age at which pharmacists could administer flu jabs to 10.