Qantas considers mandatory crew vaccination after multi-spreader incident

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The flag carrier of Australia, Qantas Airways, considers imposing a mandatory requirement for all its staff to get vaccinated from the COVID-19 virus. The idea of fully-vaccinated staff ignited after a recent incident when one of the Qantas cabin crew members had worked on six s flights before being tested positive for the infection.

Qantas announced it has already encouraged its whole staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine and offered paid days off in exchange. However, the airline also considers mandatory vaccination and has already taken a survey of staff before implementing the new requirement. 

“The Qantas group supports vaccination because we’re focused on creating the safest environment we can. […] We understand there are a lot of complicating factors for our people – including access to the vaccine and those who don’t want the vaccine or still have unanswered questions about it. But we need to find a path through those challenges if aviation is to return to normal,” reads the airline’s statement issued on July 28, 2021.

“We’ve seen that just one COVID-positive employee can inadvertently shut down a freight facility or passenger terminal, which can have a big impact on the broader community and economy. […] These are some of the key reasons why we believe a COVID vaccine should be a requirement for all aviation workers in Australia,” the airline added.

The case drew public attention on July 23, 2021, when Qantas confirmed that a flight attendant worked on a total of six regional services between Brisbane, Longreach, Hervey Bay, and Gladstone. The cabin crew member had the Delta variant of the virus, which currently circulates in Sydney, and was infected at the time of these flights. This means that while potentially being sick, the cabin crew member was in contact with hundreds of passengers as well as other cabin and flight crew members.

The talks about a need to strengthen COVID-19 protocols for aircraft crew have been circulating since late June 2021, when a cabin crew member of Virgin Australia was also tested positive after working on five local flights while being potentially infected. 

Although currently there is no government-issued requirement for crew members to get vaccinated, some airlines operating in the region declare that the majority of their staff have already done so.  For instance, the Qantas Airways competitor Virgin Australia claims that 65% of its pilots, as well as airport staff, have already taken their COVID-19 shots.

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