Coronavirus scare on Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Hobart


A man who became ill on a Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Hobart is being assessed by health authorities amid coronavirus fears.

The plane was placed into lockdown on the Hobart Airport tarmac for several hours on Friday afternoon as health authorities examined the man.

The deadly coronavirus is not strongly suspected but he has been taken to the Royal Hobart Hospital for assessment.

Further testing will be undertaken if necessary, the state health department said.

The man had recently travelled to China but it is understood he was not in Wuhan, where the virus outbreak originated, or the wider Hubei Province.

Tasmania’s Public Health Director Mark Veitch apologised to passengers for the delay “but we are conscious of the need to take necessary and appropriate precautions given the current situation,” he said in a statement. Health services have taken passengers’ details to follow up if necessary.

Two further people have been tested in Tasmania for coronavirus and both were cleared.

It comes as the Transport Workers Union called for the suspension of all direct flights from China over the outbreak.

The call came on Friday as Qantas employees were threatened with disciplinary action if they refused to work on flights from China due to concerns about the potentially fatal virus.

The disease has killed 213 people in China and infected more than 9800 globally, with the World Health Organisation declaring a public health emergency.

The virus has spread to at least 18 countries including Australia, which has nine confirmed cases with more expected.

China last week stopped flights from Wuhan – the epicentre of the virus – but the TWU now wants Mr Morrison to intervene and restrict all incoming flights from China.

The union’s national secretary, Michael Kaine, says there is a high level of uncertainty about the virus and the “precautionary principle” should apply.

“There has been a dearth of information from this federal government to airports and to airlines about what it is precisely they should do,” he told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

“There’s one thing that we can do and one step that we could take and should take and that is to cut off flights from the source of the virus.

“We should take the lead here and stop flights into Australia from China right now.”

Airlines around the world have stopped flights from mainland China including American Airlines and British Airways, Mr Kaine said.

The union has written to airports, airlines and the federal government about the matter.

But Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy says banning direct flights from China is not recommended as a public health measure.

“The World Health Organisation strongly recommends that nations do not ban flights from China because unless you lock down exit from the country, banning direct flights doesn’t stop people coming from China,” Professor Murphy told reporters in Canberra.

“They could come from all sorts of other ports and at least we know who is coming from China and we can meet and do very intensive border measures for those flights.”



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