Coronavirus: Zante flight linked to COVID-19 cases 'had no social distancing', says passenger

31 August 2020, 10:06 | Updated: 31 August 2020, 17:53

One of more than 200 people who have been told to self-isolate after 16 coronavirus cases were linked to passengers on board a flight from Zante has said "no distance was enforced" on the plane.

Of those COVID-19 cases that have been linked to people aboard the Tui flight to Cardiff on 25 August, seven were infectious or potentially infectious whilst on the flight, according to Dr Gwen Lowe, consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health Wales.

She said there have been around 30 cases in Wales in the last week that have come back from the Greek island, with those infected having been on different flights and staying at different locations.

Stephanie Whitfield was on the Tui flight 6215 to Cardiff on Tuesday and has described how passengers were not wearing masks correctly.

Speaking to Sky News, she said there was "not much social distancing" on the flight and "people didn't seem to be very well educated in the use of wearing masks".

She continued: "We had people wearing masks under their noses, underneath their chins.

"People took the mask off to talk to other people and others taking the mask off to wander down the aisles and talk to other people - so it wasn't fantastic, to be honest."

Ms Whitfield said she has been experiencing some mild symptoms of COVID-19 since returning from her holiday.

"I've had a mild cough, sore throat - it might just be a cold and I am hoping that is the case," she added.

Speaking of the flight, Ms Whitfield said: "I was expecting there to be some kind of distance between people but there wasn't at all. No distance at all was enforced."

Ms Whitfield believes testing at airports - which Heathrow bosses have been pushing the government to embrace - "would be a very good idea" to prevent such situations from happening in the future.

"Seeing how people were not wearing masks or not educated in the use of wearing masks, my husband and I decided we were going to self-isolate for two weeks, regardless of government advice before the news broke," she said.

Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said passengers on the Tui flight are now "absolutely" at risk of coronavirus.

Speaking to Sky News, he said: "We consider all passengers and crew on the flight to be a close contact of confirmed cases.

"We now know that of the 16 confirmed cases on that particular flight, seven were potentially infectious while they were flying.

"The seating arrangement of those seven confirmed cases were dispersed across various locations on the flight, therefore we are asking all passengers to self-isolate."

Dr Shankar added that the risk of not complying with the requirements is "concerning" and potentially exposes other individuals to the virus.

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Tui said wearing face masks is a condition of carriage on all of its flights and they must be worn unless consuming food and drink, or if a passenger has a medical exemption.

A spokeswoman for the airline said it is "concerned to hear of Mrs Whitfield's claims".

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."

A further two people have died with coronavirus in the UK, Public Health England reported on Sunday.

Figures at the weekend are generally lower due to delays in reporting.