All 187 passengers and 6 crew on last week’s TUI Airways flight BY6215 between Zakynthos (Zante), Greece and Cardiff, United Kingdom must self-isolate, Doctor Giri Shankar, Incident Director for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales said.
On 25 August, the passengers boarded the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 registered G-TAWA, destination Cardiff, Wales. One week later, Public Health Wales identified at least sixteen confirmed cases of Covid-19 from three different parties. Worse: seven out of the sixteen were infectious at the time of flying.
Doctor Shankar added: “All passengers will be contacted shortly, but meanwhile, they must self-isolate at home as they may become infectious, even without developing symptoms. Anyone with symptoms should book a test without delay.
“Our investigations into a number of cases of Coronavirus have indicated that a lack of social distancing, in particular by a minority of the 20-30 year age group, has resulted in the spread of the virus to other groups of people. “I would make a direct appeal to young people to remember that even if they feel that they would not be badly affected by COVID-19 if they were to test positive for it, if they were to pass it on to older or more vulnerable family members, friends or colleagues it could be extremely serious, even fatal.
“Despite the lower infection rates in Wales, Coronavirus has not gone away. It remains the responsibility of everyone to help prevent the spread of this virus – that is, by self-isolating when asked to do so, staying two metres away from others, and by washing hands regularly.
“Particularly over this Bank Holiday weekend, we are also issuing a reminder to everyone of the importance of social distancing to keep everyone in Wales safe.
“Public Health Wales reminds the public that if you have recently travelled outside the UK there may be restrictions on your return. Advice on travelling abroad, including the latest information on quarantine requirements on returning home, can be found on the Welsh Government and FCO websites.
“Anyone returning to Wales from countries which have been identified as high risk must quarantine in accordance with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office regulations even if they are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms or have had a negative test result.
“Anyone with suspected symptoms of COVID-19 infection – a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss of smell or taste (anosmia) – must self-isolate and seek an urgent test.
“Confirmed cases must isolate for 10 days, with members of their household isolating for 14 days until the risk of passing on further infection has gone. Combined, these simple but effective actions will ensure the virus does not spread.
Stephanie Whitfield, from Cardiff, who was on the flight with her partner, told the BBC she was not surprised.
She said she and her husband “decided to isolate for two weeks on the flight“, before they even learnt about the positive cases.
“This flight was a debacle. The chap next to me had his mask around his neck. Not only did the airline not pull him up on it, they gave him a free drink when he said he knew a member of the crew.
“Loads of people were taking their masks off and wandering up and down the aisles to talk to others.
“As soon as the flight landed, a load of people took their masks off immediately. The flight was full of selfish ‘covidiots’ and an inept crew who couldn’t care less.”
Stephanie said she and her husband had both had sent off for a test and would return it as soon as possible.
“We’ve got a few symptoms, but we hope it’s a cold. We’ve had a bit of a cough, a sore throat, a headache.
“I’m angry more than anything.”
Tui said all passengers complied with Covid protocols “for the duration of their flight” including wearing face masks.
The travel operator added their aircraft have “state-of-the-art, hospital standard air filtering system”, are deep cleaned after every flight and “fully disinfected at least once every 24 hours” in accordance with European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) guidelines.
“The safety and well-being of passengers and crew is our highest priority and we operate in line with EASA guidelines,” said a Tui spokesperson to BBC.
Updates on current incidents
“Public Health Wales is reiterating its call for customers of the North and South Wales Bank pub in Wrexham to be vigilant for symptoms of COVID-19.
“While the positive cases that have been identified in this incident have been among the staff, and staff-customer interaction appears to have mostly followed social distancing requirements, there is still a small risk that customers could be affected.
“Immediate contacts of those who have tested positive have been identified and contacted. Anyone who was in the pub between 9-20 August 2020 and develops even mild symptoms should immediately self-isolate and get a test.
“Getting a coronavirus test is free and simple to do, either by visiting www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or by calling the free number 119.
“We continue to work in close partnership with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and Wrexham Council to deliver multi-agency activity in Wrexham to monitor and respond to cases of Coronavirus.
“We are monitoring a number of small clusters of COVID-19 cases in Cardiff, with investigation and management supported by the Cardiff Test, Trace and Protect team. No outbreak has been declared.
“As we move through the recovery phase of the Coronavirus pandemic, we expect to see clusters in different settings. We manage any clusters of Coronavirus appropriately, including by providing advice around infection prevention and control, and by supporting contact tracing where required.
“We remind the public and business owners that Coronavirus is still circulating in the community.
Contact tracing and general information
“Contact tracing continues as part of the Welsh Government’s Test, Trace, Protect strategy. Anyone who has a positive Coronavirus test will be contacted by a team of contact tracers, and asked for details of everyone they have had close contact with while they have had symptoms.
“Please keep a note of your activities so you can easily remember your whereabouts on a given day, along with who you were in contact with.
“If you are asked to self-isolate, you should do so to prevent further spread of the virus.
“Tracers are trained staff and personal information that you provide will handled in line with data protection regulations and will not be shared widely.
“Information about the symptoms of Coronavirus is available on the Public Health Wales website, or via the NHS 111 Wales symptom checker.
“Anyone experiencing Coronavirus symptoms can apply for a home testing kit by visiting www.gov.wales/coronavirus, or by calling the national 119 phone service.
“Anyone with suspected coronavirus should not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. They should only contact NHS 111 if they feel they cannot cope with their symptoms at home, their condition gets worse, or their symptoms do not get better after seven days.
“Only call 999 if you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, do not call 999 just because you are on hold to 111. We appreciate that 111 lines are busy, but you will get through after a wait.
“Public Health Wales’ user-friendly data dashboard takes information from a range of different sources. The total number of positive cases now includes those reported from non-NHS Wales laboratories, which are subject to ongoing de-duplication, refinement and reconciliation. This may result in fluctuation of the total positive cases as this process takes place.”