Was This Car with ‘COVID19’ Plates Abandoned at an Australian Airport Before COVID was Even a Thing?

COVID-19 became a known term in March. Airport staff think this mysterious car has been sitting in their lot since February.
July 14, 2020, 6:52am
car with covid19 license plate
Image by Steven Spry

A car with a “COVID19” license plate has been parked at an Australian international airport for months, according to workers, who are unsure where the mysterious vehicle came from or whom exactly it belongs to.

Airport staffer Steven Spry recently sent a photo of the grey BMW sedan to ABC Radio Adelaide, claiming the car had been sitting in the staff car park since "February or even earlier", as far as his colleagues could recall. It was February 11 when the term "COVID-19" first started being used as the official name for the disease caused by coronavirus. The disease was declared a global pandemic on March 11.

Steve noted that the car had definitely been there since at least mid-March, when most airport staff took four weeks of forced leave, and was originally concealed under a grey cover which blew off during windy weather in April. A spokesperson from Adelaide Airport confirmed to VICE that the vehicle is still there, and that the driver has been contacted. They could not provide any more details than that.

The leading theory among airport workers, Steve said, is that the car could belong to a long-haul pilot who became stranded abroad. Staff are only reportedly only meant to leave their vehicles in the carpark for up to 48 hours.

"We seem to think it might be a long-haul pilot who has gone overseas and can't get back,” said Steve. "It's a high-end vehicle so it's going to have to be someone on a fair dollar to get a vehicle like that, but you'd think a family member would have gone to get it."

The ABC confirmed that the BMW’s license plate is registered until September 26, 2020. Registration for standard license plates can be taken out for either three or 12-month periods in South Australia, but custom number plate agreements last for periods of 12, 24 or 36 months.

That means that if the mysterious car has indeed been sitting idly at Adelaide Airport since March 2020, then the latest date at which its owner could have registered the “COVID19” license plate would be in September of last year—months before the original coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

According to state government websites, there are no cars interstate with the registration "COVID19".

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