(Updated Aug. 4, 9 A.M ET with details on possible reopening date, operations at Menzies, dnata)
Australian airline Qantas (AX: QAN) has suspended operations at its Melbourne airport freight facility even though the state of Victoria has exempted airports, ports and logistics providers from a partial lockdown order designed to contain a major COVID-19 outbreak.
Qantas Airways said it was advised by the Victoria Department of Health and Human Services to temporarily shut down its Melbourne warehouse, suggesting authorities have discovered positive cases among workers there. The notice on the Qantas Freight website did not provide any further details.
Terminals will remain closed until at least midnight Aug. 5 and freight can’t be dropped or collected at either of its two locations.
“We are currently working closely with the department to ensure we can resume operations as soon as possible,” it said.
Meanwhile, ground handler Menzies Aviation said it will function with reduced hours at the Melbourne airport. It is only accepting and delivering international freight, empty unit load devices and certain transshipments between 6 A.M. and 2:30 P.M., until further notice. It will consider special requests outside those hours with 24 hours notice.
dnata, another ground handler at the airport, said its Melbourne cargo terminal is open, fully staffed and operating as normal, with strict adherence to health directives.
Victoria declared a “state of disaster” for the region on Sunday, August 2, as the novel coronavirus rapidly spreads across Australia’s largest state. New restrictions include a nightly curfew, a ban on most travel except to pick up essential goods, and closing most retail and office locations, as well as some manufacturing, by the end of Wednesday, August 5.
Grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and gas stations are also exempted from the lockdown. Retail stores will be permitted to operate contactless ‘click and collect’ and delivery services with strict safety protocols in place, and hardware stores can remain open onsite, but for tradespeople only.
Warehousing and distribution centers in Melbourne will be limited to no more than two-thirds the normal workforce allowed onsite at any one time to prevent spread of the virus.
“If we don’t do this now, if this doesn’t work, then we’ll need a much longer list of complete shutdowns. It’s hard to imagine what a Stage 5 might look like,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said in remarks describing the crisis measures.
Qantas transports cargo and mail in the bottom of its passenger planes and with a fleet of all-cargo aircraft.