Croatia Searches For Passengers As Virus Confirmed On Frankfurt Flight

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A Croatia Airlines flight from Frankfurt to Zagreb on 2nd May has been identified as the common denominator involving 12 people who are COVID-19 positive, and who recently arrived in Croatia from abroad. Croatia’s Institute for Public Health is now in the process of completing a track and trace operation for all 74 people on that flight, and their contacts.

A Croatia Airlines flight to Frankfurt is at the center of a small wave of infections in Croatia. Photo: Croatia Airlines

Croatia Airlines is involved

The Director of Croatia’s Institute for Public Health, Krunoslav Capak, announced the news in yesterday’s daily conference for the media given by the National Crisis Management Committee of Croatia.

As Simple Flying reported last month, Croatia Airlines has been operating a single international route during the COVID-19 health crisis: Zagreb-Frankfurt-Zagreb. This is despite travel restrictions within Croatia and a total ban on foreign arrivals into the country. The route exists as an entry corridor into Croatia.

Keeping the Frankfurt-Zagreb route open has enabled the Croatian Government to minimize the number of chartered rescue operations to a single-digit total. Since this week, the route also connects onto two domestic Croatia Airlines services, to Split and Dubrovnik.

However, maintaining the route comes at a cost. As it emerged last night, the flight heading from Frankfurt to Zagreb on 2nd May carried on board at least one infected person. So far, 12 passengers on the flight have been confirmed as positive for COVID-19. It remains unknown how many of the 12 passengers were infected prior to coming on board, and how many got infected during the flight.

Croatia Airlines
Croatia Airlines currently operates one international and two domestic routes. Photo: Jakov Fabinger, Simple Flying

The infected passengers came from Sweden

It is most likely that a whole group of passengers had already been infected when they boarded the Croatia Airlines flight in Frankfurt. This is likely because nine people out of the 12 infected are workers of the Croatian mechanical engineering group Đuro Đaković, who were travelling as a group. The workers were in Sweden for work purposes. The first of the workers began showing COVID-19 symptoms two days after the flight arrived. The rest soon followed.

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Croatia has made it mandatory that all arriving passengers fill out a Passenger Locator Form, in which the passenger must list their contact details and the address of their place of stay in Croatia upon arrival. As a result, it was relatively easy for the Institute for Public Health to trace the passengers from that Croatia Airlines flight once it became apparent that the cases were connected as a result of this Croatia Airlines flight.

Further infections were then diagnosed across the territory of Croatia, one as late as this morning. Media reports since yesterday have suggested that Croatia is also tracing all the people with whom the 12 infected passengers have come into contact after landing, including the taxi driver who drove for several hours from Zagreb to Zadar.

Croatia Airlines Zagreb Airport
Croatia Airlines disinfects the aircraft after every flight, but there is not much it can do to stop in-flight transmissions. Photo: Getty Images

Nine days after the Frankfurt-Zagreb flight at the center of this story, Croatia Airlines issued a notice to all passengers that they must wear masks while on board. This was before the news emerged.

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After this incident, it may be that more airlines start requiring face masks. Furthermore, stories like this are likely to be the reason why the industry could expect a slow rebound of demand for air travel worldwide.

Will you return to flying after travel restrictions are lifted? Let us know your thoughts about flying in times of COVID-19 in the comments below.

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