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Hazmat officials board Ryanair flight at Stansted and drag off Covid-infected passenger

Holidaymakers were left gripping their seats in horror last night as hazmat-clad officials rushed onto a Ryanair plane as it say at London Stansted and removed a passenger after he received a text saying he had tested positive for coronavirus. 

The passenger and his travel companion were taken off the plane minutes before it was due to take-off from London and moved to the airport’s isolation area, where they were met by health authorities.

Their seats and the overhead cabin bins were then disinfected before the plane was allowed to fly to Pisa in Italy one 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. 

Ryanair said in a statement that 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 shocking 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.

Instructions 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 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 chaotic flight comes as:

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. 

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. 

The Government’s Test and Trace system is getting worse as figures today 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 today 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 today 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 figures today 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. 

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

‘The statistics published today 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.

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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