On Friday, police in New South Wales said they had issued citations of 1,000 Australian dollars, or 753 U.S. dollars, each to 13 South American airline crew members who left their hotels “and attended nearby businesses” earlier this month in Mascot, a suburb of Sydney.
Police were called to the area on Dec. 5, the day the airline crew arrived, around 9 p.m. to respond to one crew member who had left his hotel. Upon further investigation, 12 more were discovered to have breached quarantine to visit nearby venues, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The crew members were employees of a LATAM Chile flight. LATAM told The Washington Post in a statement that those flight crew members tested negative for the coronavirus on Dec. 6, the day after the incident, and that it is now “cooperating with NSW Health to ensure all measures protecting public health are followed.”
Before the incident, aircrews in Australia have been required to self-quarantine in a hotel of the airline’s choosing until their next flight, or for two weeks, in accordance with inbound travel restrictions that prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Starting this week, however, airlines will be required to send crew to one of two hotels managed by New South Wales Health and local police as official quarantine facilities. Those hotels are located near Sydney Airport, and not in the areas across the city at which airline crew were previously allowed to stay.
“If you are a flight crew member who has been in a country other than Australia in the 14 days before arrival, you must undertake a mandatory quarantine period in a quarantine/medical facility,” NSW Health states in its new guidance for visiting airline employees. Flight crew members must provide their contact and accommodation details before leaving the airport, and they must declare that they have not had symptoms of covid-19 or been in contact with any confirmed cases.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian called the country’s strict quarantine program necessary following her announcement of the rule changes for flight crew.
“The systems themselves haven’t been the challenge, but it’s been people disobeying,” Berejiklian said. “From Tuesday, there’ll be no chance of disobedience, given the police and [New South Wales] Health will be ensuring that they are located at two places close to the airport.”