Airline crew on high alert

Fiji Airways says it is taking steps to ensure its crew members operate in a safe environment by updating them with the required information in regards to the deadly coronavirus. Picture: REINAL CHAND/FILE

FIJI Airways says it is taking steps to ensure its crew members operate in a safe environment by updating them with the required information in regards to the deadly coronavirus.

The deadly virus has so far claimed 17 lives in Wuhan, China, infected more than 570 people in China and spread to about six countries.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and will be guided by health authorities in Fiji and other ports we operate to,” said a Fiji Airways spokesperson.

The Fiji Times asked the national carrier whether its aircrew had received training to identify passengers who may be infected with the virus and whether they had been trained to handle them onboard flights.

“A number of precautionary measures are already being put in place.

“We continue to update our crew with the required relevant information.”

The Health Ministry issued a statement yesterday and said Fiji’s response to the coronavirus would begin in the air with passengers displaying flu-like symptoms and on the ground for passengers who have travelled through cities where infections had been recorded. The ministry said while there were no direct flights from Wuhan — flights from Hong Kong and Singapore could serve as connections for passengers from Wuhan.

The Health Ministry said as a routine procedure, airlines were required to report if there were ill passengers on board.

“If a flight reports an ill passenger, they are assessed by health staff on the ground and managed as appropriate,” said the ministry.

“Therefore, we are introducing additional health screening measures for passengers disembarking from flights that originate in Hong Kong and Singapore.

“Passengers on these flights will be met upon arrival by our officers, who will review the health declaration on immigration cards and request information on recent travel to Wuhan.

Passengers who have recently travelled to Wuhan and are suspected to have the disease will be managed according to existing protocols.

“Travellers from Wuhan who are not ill will be given information about the disease and what to do if they develop symptoms later.

“These measures may change as the situation develops.”

The Health Ministry, however, said border health screening “may not absolutely prevent cases from entering Fiji because a person who has been exposed to the virus may be completely well for about 7-14 days before they have any symptoms of the disease”.

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