Four Qantas mercy flight crew test positive for coronavirus
Four Qantas flight crew and a stood-down engineer on a mercy flight from Chile last month have tested positive for coronavirus.
But, unlike passengers on the flight, they did not have to go into isolation for 14 days when they landed back in Australia because of a Federal Department of Health exemption for flight crew.
Qantas confirmed the four members of the flight crew from Santiago, which landed in Sydney on Saturday March 29, were among the 18 crew members it confirmed had tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association federal secretary Steve Purvinas said the exemption for aircrew "allows them to circulate with the general population" and should be stopped.
"We are seeing clusters on aircraft among flight crew who are contracting the virus at eight times the rate of the general population," he said.
Mr Purvinas said a Qantas engineer based in Chile was stood down and flown back on the repatriation flight where he also contracted the virus.
The airline's medical director Dr Ian Hosegood said Qantas had not broken any rules by allowing the staff to go home and not go into isolation.
"We are complying with all of the requirements issued by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee while also maintaining crucial air links to help get Australians home," he said.
Qantas has confirmed it has 50 staff members who have tested positive for coronavirus including eight pilots, 18 flight attendants and 14 baggage handlers.