The West Australian exclusive

Pilot breached COVID protocol by engaging with seafarers at Meekatharra airport

EXCLUSIVE Phoebe PinMidwest Times
There was a COVID protocol breach at Meekatharra airport last month.
Camera IconThere was a COVID protocol breach at Meekatharra airport last month. Credit: Geoffrey Thomas/The West Australian

An under-the-radar breach of COVID-19 protocols at the remote Meekatharra Aerodrome has emerged, which saw a local pilot interact with those on a plane that had landed to refuel, including seafarers.

Meekatharra Shire president Harvey Nichols said he was not informed about the breach at the Murchison town’s airport last month. A report presented to the council on Saturday by airport manager Mike Cuthbertson said a third party interacted with the pilot and passengers — including seafarers — of an aircraft which had landed in Meekatharra to refuel.

It is unclear where the seafarers were from, but there was nothing in the report to suggest they had been exposed to COVID-19.

The interaction was in breach of the State Government’s new Transport and Accommodation Services (Exposed Maritime Worker) Directions, which came into effect on July 2.

The report said the person was a local pilot and was informed of their breach when it became evident. “They were requested to leave the airport immediately, contact their employer for guidance, and the incident was reported to the relevant police COVID-19 taskforce for investigation,” the report stated. Cr Nichols said he had not been aware of the incident but applauded Mr Cuthbertson and his team for their quick response.

“It is good to see that our officer picked it up straight away. Mike has been out there a couple of years and he does a great job,” he said. The report said Meekatharra aerodrome had not been deemed a “transport hub” for exposed maritime workers and was used as a fuel stop only. For this reason, the aerodrome is not required to implement new infrastructure to meet the new requirements as mandated.

The aerodrome manager is responsible for communicating with WA Police should breaches of current restrictions occur at Meekatharra aerodrome.

Cleaning and sanitising of public areas is being stepped up to ensure a “safe environment for users of the airport facilities”, according to the report.

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