Passenger's shock as medics drag Covid case off plane before take off

‘I could be infecting people here in Italy now’: Passenger’s shock as Hazmat-suited medics drag suspected Covid case off plane – before it is then allowed to fly with cabin full of people fearing they have the virus

  • Fionn Murphy, 21, from west London, said he could be walking around Pisa spreading the deadly coronavirus
  • The alleged infected person and his travel companion were taken off the aircraft minutes before take-off time
  • The man and friend were moved to Stansted Airport’s isolation area, where they were met by health authority
  • Their seats and the overhead cabin bins were then disinfected before the plane was then allowed to fly to Pisa

A passenger was left shocked when a Ryanair flight was allowed to travel from Stansted to Italy despite a suspected Covid-infected flyer being dragged off the plane by Hazmat-suited medics.

Fionn Murphy, 21, from west London, said he could be walking around Pisa spreading coronavirus because no other riders were asked to self-isolate on arrival.

The allegedly infected person and his travel companion were taken off the aircraft minutes before it was due to take-off and moved to the airport’s isolation area, where they were met by health authorities.

Their seats and the overhead cabin were disinfected before the plane was allowed to fly to Pisa an hour and 40 minutes behind schedule, according to Flight Radar.

The passenger, who has not been named, breached coronavirus quarantine restrictions by leaving their home and boarding the flight.

Mr Murphy, a musician who was travelling with his 59-year-old mother Fliss, told the Mirror: ‘He’s put everyone at risk.

‘We could be all now infecting Pisa. The plane had pushed back and it was ready to take off and it just stopped suddenly.’

He added: ‘The crew said the fire brigade was coming and 10 minutes later a fire truck appeared outside the plane and got dressed in full hazmat suits. Honestly it was scary. They came on and it was like ”oh s***, this is real”.’

The chaotic flight came as:

  • Up to 40 coronavirus outbreaks were identified at food processing sites across the UK, leaving supermarkets including Marks & Spencer with a shortage of prawn mayonnaise, BLT and other types of sandwiches;
  • Matt Hancock chaired a meeting on local lockdowns amid fears Birmingham could be the next to face tougher coronavirus restrictions;
  • The Health Secretary insisted earlier £13 is not enough for low-paid workers in Covid-hit areas to survive if they self-isolate;
  • Europe’s second wave continues with France’s Covid R rate hitting 1.4, Spain topping the US in cases per million and Italy recording its highest daily case toll since May;
  • Ministers are expected to make a decision tonight on whether to add Switzerland, the Czech Republic or Jamaica to the UK’s quarantine travel list; 
  • Thousands of students prepare to return to the classroom for the first time next week;
  • England and Wales announce eight more coronavirus deaths. A full update on the number of cases is expected later this afternoon.

Hazmat-clad officials boarded a plane in London Stansted after a passenger received a text from track-and-trace minutes before take off. The flight was bound for Pisa

Horrified passengers clutched their seats as the customer was escorted off the flight with their travel companion. The plane was still allowed to travel on to Pisa

Ryanair said in a statement the passenger received a text message minutes before his departure that he had tested positive for Covid-19.

The spokesman said: ‘The passenger and his travel companion were immediately offloaded and taken to a Stansted Airport isolation area where they were assisted by local public health authorities.

‘Since this passenger and his companion had complied fully with Ryanair health regulations, they were both wearing masks at all times at Stansted Airport and for the very short period (less than 10 minutes) they were seated on the aircraft prior to departure.

‘There was little if any risk of Covid-19 transmission to other passengers or crew members as all of whom were also wearing face masks at all times.

‘The aircraft departed for Pisa following a delay of 1 hour and 20 mins to allow for the empty seats and overhead cabin bins to be disinfected to comply with all UK health authority guidance. Ryanair apologises to all passengers for this short delay.’

Shocking video shows three officials dressed head-to-toe in protective gear approaching the individual on the plane as a crew member tried to keep passengers in their seats.

The revelation could throw the carefully-crafted air bridges scheme into turmoil, where people are allowed to travel between certain countries without having to self-isolate.

Instructions on NHS England’s website warn those with symptoms to stay at home and avoid all travel.

Advice on the Department of Health website read: ‘If you are getting a coronavirus test because you have symptoms, you and anyone you live with must self-isolate until you get your result.

‘This also applies to anyone in your support bubble (where someone who lives alone – or just with their children – can meet people from one other household).’

It can take up to 72 hours for tests to be completed to show whether someone has coronavirus.

A crew member was filmed trying to calm passengers down and keep them in their seats

The Ryanair flight was delayed for an hour and 40 minutes as the passenger’s seat and overhead cabin was disinfected in line with government guidance

One passenger onboard the plane posted a picture of themselves wearing a facemask with the caption: ‘The face when you are about to take off and someone gets a text from track and trace.’

They added that police came onto the plane and claimed the individual was tested for coronavirus.

Stansted airport said: ‘The airport were made aware of the passenger by the airline and our fire service attended the aircraft and escorted the passenger (and travel partner) to an isolation area where they were put in contact with Public Health England, who then oversaw the passenger’s onward journey.’

The Ryanair flight was still allowed to continue to Pisa. It is believed that no further action was taken by Italian authorities, and no other passengers were required to self-isolate.

Italy, which was at the epicentre of the pandemic, made facemasks mandatory in ‘all spaces open to the public’ between 6pm and 6am on August 16.

The country is currently battling a second wave of coronavirus, although the government has already promised it will not return to a similar lockdown to the one seen earlier this year. It recorded 1,367 new cases yesterday, the highest number since May 12.

Italy remains on the government’s travel corridor scheme, meaning people travelling from the UK to Italy will not need to undertake a 14-day quarantine. Its coronavirus infection rate remains about half the rate of the UK.

Austria, Croatia and Trinidad and Tobago were all struck off the list this week, joining France, the Netherlands, Belgium and many other countries. Travellers arriving in the UK from these countries will need to quarantine for 14 days.

Thousands of British holidays were thrown into chaos at the end of last month when Spain was removed from the airbridge scheme. 

Spain, France and Italy are all seeing surges in the number of coronavirus cases, as a second wave of infection takes hold across Europe

Italy is also beginning to see its cases rise again, after logging 1,367 new cases on Wednesday, the highest figure the country has seen since May

Italy logged 13 deaths from the virus on Wednesday, a slight increase on the previous day, but fatalities have so-far not kept pace with infections

Europe is continuing to battle a second wave of the pandemic as France, Spain and Italy all record large jumps in the number of coronavirus cases they are seeing.

France announced it had added 5,429 cases overnight, marking its largest single-day jump since April 14, and the third-largest daily rise since the pandemic began.

Jean Castex, the French prime minister, said the country’s R rate is now at 1.4, well above the crucial 1 figure needed to keep the infection curve flat.

Spain registered another 7,296 cases, enough to push the country above the US – the world’s worst-affected nation – in number of cases per million inhabitants, based on a seven-day rolling average.

The Home Office has been contacted for comment. 

NHS Test and Trace: What to do if you’ve been in contact with a person with coronavirus

If you’re told you’ve been in contact with someone who has coronavirus:

Advice on NHS England says you should stay at home for 14 days from the day you were last in contact with that person as it can take this long for symptoms to appear. You are also required to do the following:  

  • Do not leave your home for any reason – if you need food or medicine, order it online or by phone, or ask friends and family to drop it off at your home
  • Do not have visitors in your home, including friends or family, except for essential care
  • Try to avoid contact with anyone you live with as much as possible
  • People you live with do not need to self-isolate if you do not have symptoms
  • People in your support bubble do not need to self-isolate if you do not have symptoms

If you get symptoms of coronavirus:  

  • Get a test to check whether you have coronavirus as soon as possible
  • Anyone you live with must self-isolate until you’ve been tested and received your result
  • Anyone in your support bubble must self-isolate until you’ve been tested and received your result 

Test and Trace is worse than ever: Just 72.6% of Covid-19 patients were tracked – and only a THIRD of those were reached in 24 hours

The Government’s Test and Trace system is getting worse as figures yesterday revealed that call handlers reached a record-low of just 72.6 per cent of infected patients last week.

It’s the fifth week in a row the number of Covid-19 cases who have been tracked has fallen, dropping from the best performance of 82.8 per cent in the week ending July 22.

Scientists have repeatedly warned at least 80 per cent of coronavirus patients must be contacted and interviewed in order for the system — which Boris Johnson has called ‘world-beating’ — to work effectively. 

Department of Health data released yesterday also showed a third of people who tested positive for the coronavirus and referred to the system were not reached within 24 hours. 

It’s crucial for the system to work rapidly, so that close contacts of Covid-19 cases who may unknowingly have the virus are tracked down and told to self isolate before they can spread the infection further. 

It comes as Matt Hancock yesterday defended his plan to pay people on low incomes £13 a day to self-isolate, even though critics said the payments would not be enough to stop people going to work.

The Government’s Test and Trace system is getting worse as figures yesterday revealed that call handlers reached a record-low of just 72.6 per cent of infected patients last week

The figures yesterday also add to evidence that Britain’s outbreak is not spiralling out of control as feared, with the number of positive cases dropping almost nine per cent in a week. 


Matt Hancock yesterday launched a furious defence of his plan to pay people on low incomes £13 a day to self-isolate as critics said the payments would not be enough to stop people going to work.

From September 1 people who receive Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit who are required to self-isolate, who are unable to work from home and who are in Covid-19 hotspots will benefit from the new payment scheme.

Eligible people who test positive for the virus will receive £130 for their 10-day period of self-isolation while other members of their household, who under current rules must isolate for 14 days, will get £182.

The scheme will initially be trialled in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Oldham – areas which are currently subject to local lockdown measures.

The Government hopes the payments will boost compliance with requests from NHS Test and Trace for people to stay at home, with Mr Hancock pointing out the money will be ‘in addition’ to other benefits.

But critics believe the payments are far too small and many people will still feel that they cannot afford to stay at home.

A total of 6,115 people were diagnosed between August 13 and 19, down from 6,656 the week before. 

This represents 1.4 and 1.5 per cent of all tests taken, respectively, proving that cases have not fallen just as a result of less testing.

Of those cases, 72.6 per cent were reached by call handlers. In comparison, the rate was 79 per cent the week before. Data also shows it is even worse than the 73.4 per cent recorded in the first week of the scheme. 

Of those who were contacted, only 69.7 per cent were reached within 24 hours. Five per cent weren’t tracked down for at least three days.

Some 75.9 per cent gave at least one phone number of a close contact, a figure that has dropped every week since mid-July. 

But in positive developments, 75.5 per cent of close contacts were reached, up from 71.6 per cent in the previous week.

But it’s still a dramatically lower number than the 91.1 per cent of cases who were reached in the first week of launching, on May 28.

Experts suspect that people do not pick up the phone to contact tracers because it is an unrecognised number. 

Head of the NHS Test and Trace Baroness Dido Harding, said England ‘now has the capacity to test for coronavirus and trace contacts on an unprecedented scale’.

She said: ‘This week marks a milestone for NHS Test and Trace, which has now been in operation for more than three months.

‘The statistics… show every week we consistently reach the majority of people testing positive and their contacts, and have now reached almost 300,000 people who may have unknowingly passed the virus on. 

‘We will continue to build the service further to reach more and more people and to scale up our testing capacity.

‘I urge everyone to use NHS Test and Trace to help everyone get back to a more normal way of life.’ 

Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘The latest test and trace figures show a yo-yo effect with vital improvements in some areas balanced out by steps back in others.’

Local health protection teams showed to have a higher success rate than the centralised system once again, proving that a ‘boots on ground’ approach is more effective for contact tracing.

Some 95.6 per cent of close contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to August 19, compared to 61.6 per cent of cases handled by call centres.

Various local authority councils took matters into their own hands and launched local contact-tracing operations to supplement the national system, before ministers offered local systems extra resources to strengthen their response.

The figures also show test turnaround times between 13 and 19 August have fallen.

The proportion of recent close contacts handled by call centres that were contacted

More people are being referred to the NHS tracing system reflecting an increase in cases

Testing turnaround times have also dipped since the record high at the start of July. But they are starting to improve for home test kits and satellite centres

Just one fifth of tests from all test sites were received within 24 hours of a test being taken. 

The number of people who got their result returned in 24 hours after visiting a regional testing site — mostly drive-throughs — was the worst yet.

Almost two-thirds (63.5 per cent) were still waiting for their result after 24 hours, up from 42.2 per cent the week before and 8 per cent in the week ending July 1.

But at last, the 24-hour target was improved for satellite test centres — places like hospitals and care homes that urgently need results — and home kits after weeks of dismal figures.

But still only 5.9 and 6.4 per cent of people in those testing categories got their result back in 24 hours. 

The PM had pledged that, by the end of June, the results of 100 per cent of all in-person tests would be back within 24 hours.

Experts say getting test results fast and carrying out contact tracing immediately is vital to stopping the spread of coronavirus because there is only a short window to alert people that they are at risk of infecting others without yet knowing they’re ill.

But those who take a home test kit now have to wait 71 hours on average to find out if they have Covid-19. 

The average amount of time it takes for test results to come back from all routes has increased, apart from those done at satellite test centres. 

Fears of a second wave have grown over the past month, with official data showing the average number of daily cases has doubled since mid-July. Growing outbreaks in Europe have also spooked ministers.

But the Department of Health figures and separate data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which tracks the size of the outbreak through swab tests of thousands of people, suggest that the number of cases is shrinking.

Last week it claimed 2,400 people are catching the virus in England each day, down 37 per cent on the week before.

Statisticians claimed the outbreak has ‘levelled off’. For comparison, the ONS estimated that around 4,200 people were getting infected each day at the end of July. 

However, a senior government source told journalists last Friday that data on growth rates and R values suggest cases are ‘trending upwards, very gently’.   

The official said: ‘We are not seeing fast increase here, but I do think we are on a positive slope and its gently increasing.’

SAGE warned the reproduction rate — the average number of people each coronavirus patient infects — could now be above the dreaded level of one. 

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) estimates the R value is now between 0.9 and 1.1. Experts say the R needs to stay below one or Governments risk losing control of the epidemic and the virus could start to spread exponentially again.

But the estimate is based on three week old data due to the lag in time between Covid-19 patients falling ill and appearing in the statistics, meaning it does not paint a real-time picture of the UK’s current epidemic. 

And it can be skewed upwards by local clusters of infections, which has been seen in swathes of the North West of England. 

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