Singapore sends Turkish Airlines flight home empty after coronavirus case

SINGAPORE/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish Airlines aircraft was flown back to Istanbul with no passengers on board on Thursday on orders from Singapore authorities after a passenger who had arrived on the same plane on Tuesday tested positive for coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: A Turkish Airlines Airbus A321neo plane lands at the city's new Istanbul Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, April 6, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

The infected passenger was a French national traveling from London to Singapore, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said, and the plane’s crew would be held in quarantine for 14 days as a precaution.

A Turkish aviation official told Reuters earlier that there were 143 passengers, three pilots and 10 crew members aboard the flight to Singapore. Last month, Nigeria said its first case of the virus entered the country on a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul, when a man traveling from Italy landed in Lagos.

“The passenger diagnosed with coronavirus in Singapore is a French citizen. The person was a transit passenger going from London to Singapore. Our plane returned without passengers. The crew will be protectively held in quarantine for 14 days,” Koca said on Twitter.

Singapore’s CAAS aviation regulator said that the pilots and crew of flight TK54 that arrived on Tuesday had been come into close contact with the passenger, but the aviation official said the crew tested negative for the virus in Singapore.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in contact with the Turkish Embassy, which has confirmed that the crew will be quarantined upon arrival at Istanbul,” CAAS said.

Singapore’s transport ministry said in a statement on its website that authorities had begun tracing passengers on flight TK54 that may have had contact with the infected person.

Turkish Airlines declined to comment.

Singapore had 112 confirmed cases of coronavirus, which started in China, but a large majority of the patients in the city-state have recovered and been discharged from hospital.

Turkey has had no reported cases of the virus.

Reporting by Anshuman Daga, Jamie Freed and Ceyda Caglayan; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Simon Cameron-Moore and Alexander Smith