Mass coronavirus quarantine at Adelaide Airport: A matter of negligence?

Date: May 01, 2020

Are companies doing all they can to protect their employees and customers from infection with the novel coronavirus? This is a question that will become ever more pressing in the months and years ahead, as the fallout from the pandemic becomes clearer. While it will take time to determine whether any health care providers can be tied to the type of incorrect treatment, diagnosis or advice needed for a medical negligence suit, organisations in other fields are already facing questions over their handling of the disease.

These questions are most acute when there is a mass infection traced back to a single incident. The handling of the Ruby Princess case, in which a cruise ship carrying infected passengers was allowed to discharge people, is one such issue being discussed in the press. Another is the mass quarantine going on in Adelaide, with over 750 people associated with the airport being monitored for infection.

What happened in Adelaide?

According to 9 News, the outbreak at Adelaide Airport started with a single positive test of a baggage handler 27 March. Due to the close working conditions among airport ground crews, the infection had spread while the employee was at work, and five more baggage handlers soon tested positive. From there, family members of the affected staff members began to test positive and flights were directed away from Adelaide, including one plane from Sydney that turned around in mid-air and went back to its point of origin.

Passengers still flying from Adelaide after the outbreak began spreading were asked by South Australia Health to wipe their baggage and wash their hands often. More positive tests, this time from employees who are not baggage handlers, caused more concern, and SA Health eventually worked with Qantas to quarantine 750 staff members for 14 days. While public areas aren't considered infected, SA Health stated anyone feeling sick after travelling through the airport should get tested.

Will Qantas be held responsible?

Travel Weekly has found that the Transport Workers' Union's South Australia branch is requesting information from Qantas about the baggage handler infection. The union has been informed that there may have been inadequate protection for workers, allowing the infection cluster to reach its significant size. Qantas has claimed it does in fact have enhanced safety measures in place. With a legal request for information in place, the matter will likely develop in the months ahead.

Over the next few years, negligence during the coronavirus pandemic may lead to multiple legal actions. If you or someone you know has been impacted by potential medical negligence, contact the legal experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners to learn more about your options.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.