Shocking image of packed airport emerges as NT gets new case
TRAVELLERS at Darwin Airport are being packed close together against social distancing guidelines, with the concerning image surfacing as a Territorian arriving home tests positive for coronavirus.
Health authorities are now tracking down those who sat close to the man on his flights to Darwin from Melbourne via Brisbane on June 29.
The man, in his 30s, had flown into Melbourne from Pakistan and completed 14 days of hotel quarantine before going to see his family in a coronavirus declared hotspot.
The man had tested negative while in hotel lockdown in Victoria.
He flew back into Darwin on June 29 on Qantas flight QF836 and went into quarantine at his home, where he lives alone, before developing symptoms.
Chief Health Officer Dr Hugh Heggie said there was near to no risk to the public and the man's disease was "mild".
He is being cared for at Royal Darwin Hospital.
NT Health confirmed the man did have the COVIDSafe app installed and said contact tracing would focus on adjacent seats two rows in front and two rows behind the man.
Queensland authorities will help contact trace for the Melbourne to Brisbane leg of the flight.
In a worrying development, a passenger arriving from Brisbane to Darwin on Wednesday, also on QF836, revealed people were getting off flights and being packed into a tight airport hallway as they waited to be processed.
The passenger said boarding was done five rows at a time and the plane was nearly full but on arrival in Darwin people were crammed waiting to get off.
NT Airports declined to confirm if disembarkation plans were in place to prevent people mingling in close quarters but said it had been working closely with airline partners and authorities "to be ready for takeoff" when borders reopen just two weeks away on July 17.
"NT Airports understands that as travel restrictions are eased there is a risk that some people travelling through our terminals may test positive for COVID-19," chief executive Tony Edmondstone said.
"We do not take this lightly and are working to make sure our airports are as safe as possible."
Health Minister Natasha Fyles said all businesses, including the airport, must follow health directions but declined to say if she was taking matters further.
She called on people to dob in bad behaviour, including breaches of quarantine.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner said it was inevitable the NT record more cases of coronavirus.
"I know it's hard to hear, but it's the truth," he said. "I really want all Territorians to know this. It will happen again.
"Coronavirus isn't going anywhere for a while. We don't have a vaccine and Australia is not corona-free."
Victoria recorded 77 new COVID-19 cases yesterday as it grapples with failures in its hotel quarantine system, including letting a NSW man go home despite testing positive.
The man worked two shifts at Woolworths while infectious.
Originally published as Shocking image of packed Darwin Airport emerges as NT gets new case