James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
'No social distancing at all' on coronavirus-hit TUI flight, passenger claims
31 August 2020, 14:28
A passenger aboard a TUI flight connected to several new coronavirus cases has described seeing "no distance at all" enforced on the journey.
Stephanie Whitfield was travelling on flight 6215 from Zante to Cardiff on Tuesday and is one of the nearly 200 people who have since been forced to self-isolate.
She told Sky News that fellow passengers were "wearing masks under their noses, underneath their chins" on the trip and that others had taken their masks off entirely "to wander down the aisles and talk to other people."
"I was expecting there to be some kind of distance between people but there wasn't at all. No distance at all was enforced," she said.
There have been 16 cases of COVID-19 now linked to the flight, with officials confirming that at least seven of those were infectious or potentially infectious while on board.
Dr Gwen Lowe, a consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health Wales, said around 30 infections confirmed in Wales in the last week had been in people recently travelling back from Zante.
They were said to be on different flights and had been staying in different locations.
Ms Whitfield said she has since been experiencing possible COVID-19 symptoms after returning from her holiday, but has been holding out hope that it "might just be a cold".
She added that after seeing passengers not wearing masks properly, she and her husband had decided to self-isolate for two weeks anyway "regardless of government advice before the news broke".
According to Dr Lowe, it is "very obvious" that the majority of COVID-19 transmissions are not between complete strangers.
To do so would be "unlucky", she said, adding that most people catch the virus from their colleagues, family and friends.
She said wearing face coverings on aircrafts "may help" but highlighted that they are an "informal measure" that is difficult for airlines to strictly enforce.
"If somebody is determined not to wear a mask, people often don't know how to wear masks properly, they touch them a lot, they wear them below their nose, they take them off to eat.
"And if you've got COVID symptoms, that will spread COVID symptoms quite rapidly through a confined space such as aircraft," she said.
A spokeswoman for TUI said health and safety remained a "priority" and expressed further concern over Ms Whitfield's comments.
She added: "Our crew are trained to the highest standards and in line with European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) guidelines.
"Passengers are informed prior to travel and via PA announcements on the flight that they have to wear masks throughout and are not allowed to move around the cabin.
"Masks can only be removed when consuming food and drink. A full investigation is now under way as these concerns weren't reported during the flight or before today."