19 Mar 2020

Restrictions for Covid-19 inadequate after person symptomatic on flight - traveller

11:10 am on 19 March 2020

A mother with a young child was alarmed when a fellow passenger got symptoms of Covid-19 during what she described as an 'evacuation' flight back to New Zealand.

Passengers wait for their flights at Auckland Airport.

Passengers wait for their flights at Auckland Airport. Photo: 123RF

Ellen Strickland was flying back from the United States yesterday with her three-year-old daughter when someone became unwell two rows in front of her.

Masked Air New Zealand flight attendants created a one row buffer around the passenger and their two companions, moving the other travellers into business class.

Passengers were anxious and tense before even boarding the flight in Houston, Strickland said.

"They had some notices up about the 14-day self-isolation and there seemed to be a few people they were checking who had tickets [to stay in New Zealand] for less than two weeks.

"Most of the staff were wearing face masks and everyone was really anxious, it really felt like an evacuation flight - people were really anxious and ready to go."

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  • Once on board and in the premium economy cabin, it became clear that someone had a fever and other symptoms.

    "There was a family travelling where one of the people felt unwell and had some symptoms that were worrying within a few hours after take-off, which was quite stressful," she said.

    The crew, wearing masks and gloves, blocked off toilets so the group could use them exclusively.

    Although staff did all they could on the plane, the restrictions once she was back in New Zealand were inadequate, she said.

    "The pilot came on and told us that we were being held at the gate by officials for a while and we all needed to stay seated," she said.

    "And we stayed seated until they had taken that group of three off the plane and they also appeared to take the people who had been within one seat around them off the plane just after them."

    All those sat around the group had their contact details taken down by staff.

    "I'd say after seeing that and the way it felt like an evacuation, seeing those people and hearing about the cases, I really felt concerned about the fact that we have people going on to domestic travel and public transport coming off of these planes now."

    • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

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