A Melbourne woman on a road trip far from lockdown managed to cross two state borders into NSW and Queensland last week without realising she was infected with Covid-19.
Travelling with her partner from one of Melbourne’s outer suburbs, the woman, 44, left Victoria on June 1, four days after Victoria’s lockdown started.
She tested positive at Caloundra on the picturesque Sunshine Coast on June 8 after joining relatives there, but had been experiencing symptoms since as early as June 3.
The Melbourne woman is being managed by Sunshine Coast University Hospital staff and her partner is also in hospital being monitored in case he develops symptoms with concerns he may catch the virus after spending so much time inside the car.
As three states now scramble to track the pair’s movements, questions are rightly being asked about how they managed to leave Victoria and cross state lines when Melbourne had been declared a hot spot.
Melburnians in lockdown were banned from travelling 5km from home and Victorians have been banned from entering NSW unless they live in border communities.
Queensland declared all of Victoria a hotspot on May 28, meaning anybody who had been in Victoria within 14 days of attempting to enter Queensland faced mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine.
The Queensland Health website outlines the only reason for entry into Queensland from a hotspot: “Essential purposes”. But authorities said nothing about an exemption when addressing the media on Wednesday afternoon.
“I don’t know the details of why they left or what the reason was,” Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young said.
“Of course we will be looking into how all this happened.”
The couple took a route through regional NSW, stopping at Gillenbah, Forbes, Dubbo and Moree before crossing the border into Queensland at Goondiwindi — a suburb on the MacIntyre River, 350km southwest of Brisbane.
According to the Courier Mail, one theory about the couple’s route is that they chose to cross the border at Goondiwindi because the focus of police patrols was on the border at the Gold Coast.
Gold Coast police Superintendent Rhys Wildman said officers were performing up to 100 random intercepts every day.
“If you try to get into Queensland illegally through the Gold Coast, there is a high likelihood of being identified and intercepted.”
The newspaper reports that police had not been considering reinstalling border checkpoints after Melbourne’s outbreak caused a lockdown.
Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski was asked at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon if the pair “lied on her declaration form”.
He would not be drawn on the question, saying the priority was tracking the pair’s movements.
“Of course we are going to investigate the circumstances of what’s happened here. All the aspects of how that’s occurred, including what’s happened in the other states, we will do in a cooperative manner with our colleagues in New South Wales and Victoria.
“We will examine all those issues around passes — whether they were appropriate and what has happened — it is too early to say.”
Authorities in Queensland identified six close contacts from their time in the state.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the woman and her partner entered Queensland on June 5, passing through Goondiwindi and Toowoomba.
“The woman was tested yesterday and, it was confirmed today, that it was a positive case,” D’Ath said.
Young said the news was a lot to deal with for Queenslanders who had already suffered through more than a year of uncertainty.
“The community has had to put up with so much now for 18 months and to do this again, it doesn’t matter the cause, any community case of Covid is going to be frustrating for a lot of people.”
She urged anyone with even mild symptoms to get tested for Covid-19.
“Anyone who has been to an exposure site listed on our website must come forward and get tested,” she said.
Victoria’s 14-day lockdown ends at midnight tonight but a number of restrictions remain in place, including a ban on travelling 25km from home unless for essential caregiving, work or to receive a vaccination.
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