Quarantine loophole has been a total ‘cluster’

THE word "cluster" springs immediately to mind when contemplating how Queensland's current border restrictions are currently being applied in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in this state.

First, three women, two of whom have now been diagnosed with coronavirus, breezed past security at Brisbane Airport by using a connecting flight through Sydney and allegedly lying about their travels.

Queensland closes quarantine loophole

Then, a Gympie woman is accused of stowing away on a truck but it turns out she simply gave less than adequate information to police at the border.

Three men from Logan fail to tell authorities that they had also been in Victoria but were exposed when one was tested for coronavirus.

And now a blame game is being played over who is responsible for allowing a security guard with coronavirus who worked at an international embassy to return to his home in Toowoomba.

Clearly, Queensland has learnt nothing from the Ruby Princess scandal.

Confusion over rules and delineation of authority between multiple agencies and levels of government saw infected passengers from that infamous cruise ship dispersed around Australia causing numerous deaths.



Police patrolling the Queensland border cannot be blamed for what has happened.

They've been tasked with stopping people from Victoria and Greater Sydney from entering our state and forcing returning Queenslanders who have been to those places to isolate in a hotel.

But the ability of police to elicited information from suspected individuals is limited, the rules they are enforcing are vague and they are required to treat certain people differently based on a scheme of exemptions that make little practical sense.

It's akin to tasking officers with catching motorists breaking traffic rules but not supplying them with speed guns and saying some drivers can do whatever they like.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday was desperately trying to blame New South Wales officialdom over the security guard case.

While there is some confusion over whether or not the individual had a right to an exemption, ultimately it is the Premier's responsibility to set the rules.

In this case Queensland's chief health officer Jeanette Young granted the man the right to isolate at home.



Last night the government went some way towards stopping such issues cropping up again by declaring that all consular and diplomatic staff returning from overseas or from interstate hotspots will go into hotel quarantine.

"This exemption is a problem. We've seen that in Queensland this week," chief health officer Jeannette Young said.

Ms Palaszczuk is right to have a malleable border system that prevents access to people from designated coronavirus "hot spots" and requires Queenslanders to isolate if they have been to them.

However, rather than blame shifting, the Premier needs to fix more of the gaping holes in the border rules and provide police with greater authority to obtain information from people.

If she fails then the next hot spots will be in Queensland and it will be police from other states at the border.

Originally published as Quarantine loophole has been a total 'cluster'