Traveller who accidentally breached green zone at Brisbane airport tests positive to COVID-19

The two travellers from PNG mixed with others in the departures terminal for more than an hour.

The two travellers from PNG mixed with others in the departures terminal for more than an hour. Photo: ABC News/ Michael Rennie

A traveller, who unwittingly entered a common area of the Brisbane International Airport on Thursday after arriving on a flight from Papua New Guinea, has tested positive to coronavirus.

The man and his travel partner had been in transit on a flight from Port Moresby, a coronavirus hotspot, and were accidentally allowed into the “green zone” at the departures terminal on Thursday morning. 

For 90 minutes, the pair shopped and used public toilets before being retrieved. 

On Thursday, the man’s test was inconclusive, but more samples were sent to Queensland Health’s Forensic and Scientific Services laboratory and a positive result was returned on Friday.

“Serology testing is underway to determine if the confirmed case is historical,” chief health officer Jeannette Young said.

Dr Young has declared the international terminal a venue of concern.

Anyone who was in the terminal between 9.45am and midday on Thursday should monitor their symptoms and get tested immediately if they feel unwell.

Dr Young said CCTV footage showed the two spent most of their time in Hudson Café, had minimal interaction with other people and wore masks appropriately.

The footage also showed that the table was cleaned once the pair left the cafe.

Dr Young said while the risk of Queenslanders being infected was low, she was taking precautions.

“Staff who came into contact with this case have been placed into quarantine,” she said.

The man’s travel partner has returned a negative test.

Nearly 400 people put at risk

Brisbane Airport Corporation confirmed the incident was a result of human error and the breach was being investigated.

A spokesperson said the pair were “accidentally” let into the international airport’s green zone at 9.55am Thursday after arriving on an Air Niugini flight. They were in transit and due to board a Qatar airlines flight later in the day.

Currently all overseas arrivals except for those from New Zealand must stay in “red zone” areas of the airport.

During the period the infected traveller was in the green zone, three flights to New Zealand departed, taking approximately 390 passengers.

The flights affected are Air New Zealand NZ202 from Brisbane to Christchurch, Air New Zealand NZ146 from Brisbane to Auckland, and Qantas QF135 from Brisbane to Christchurch.

“We believe the passengers were only in the vicinity of a small number of people,” a Brisbane Airport Corporation spokeswoman said.

“It will be up to Queensland Health to determine who of these had close contact with them and they will be liaised with directly by Queensland Health.”


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