Health authorities are scrambling to prevent fresh COVID-19 outbreaks in southern Queensland and New South Wales as they trace the path of a Melbourne couple.
As multiple towns deal with the possibility of an outbreak, authorities are now asking how and why the Melbourne couple began an interstate road trip from a city already in lockdown.
Queensland Health revealed a 44-year-old Melbourne woman left Victoria with her husband on June 1, drove through NSW and into Queensland. On June 5, she had tested positive for coronavirus in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast. The husband of the COVID-positive woman has now also tested positive for the virus.
Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young said the husband had originally tested negative but serology results in the past 24 hours showed that the couple are both towards the end of their illness.
“Which is very good news for Queensland, in that means the risk of transmission to anyone else is less,” she said in a press conference today.
Health authorities have identified 17 close contacts of the pair. So far, three of those contacts have tested negative, including the parents the couple had been staying with at Caloundra.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said authorities would not be locking down hospitals, residential aged care, or residential disabilities.
Tracing of the woman’s travels is currently being investigated by Queensland Health, which has released an initial list of exposure sites in both Queensland and New South Wales.
Couple ‘did not have exemption to travel’
Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner, Steve Gollschewski, told reporters yesterday they were investigating whether the couple’s road journey constituted a border breach.
“We’ve got a couple that have come from Victoria — when Victoria is in a lockdown — into Queensland,” he said.
“All the aspects of how that’s occurred, including what’s happened in the other states, that will [be done] in a cooperative manner with our colleagues in Victoria in NSW.
“We’ll examine all those issues around passes, whether they are appropriate, and what has happened.
“We cannot possibly check every single person moving about the country — we rely on the community doing the right thing.”
He said a failure to comply with the Chief Health Officer’s directive may result in court action.
Dr Young said the couple had not received an exemption to travel into Queensland from Melbourne.
“They didn’t come through the exemption process, so it’s now up to police to investigate whether they came through any other process,” she said.
D’Ath said she did not want to “jump to conclusions” until more information was available.
“I understand the husband was here with a new job so we know that is one of the grounds that people can travel,” D’Ath said.
“Our priority and the priority of the police right now is of course that contact tracing, but those investigations will occur.”
Melbourne family in managed isolation in New Zealand
This week also brings news of three Melbourne residents who have been caught trying to get into New Zealand during Victoria’s coronavirus lockdown.
Australia and New Zealand still have a travel bubble arrangement in place, but travel from Victoria was put on hold last month after the latest coronavirus outbreak.
New Zealand director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, told reporters on Wednesday that the three drove from Melbourne to Sydney and then flew to Auckland last week.
The NZ Herald reported they were going to attend a funeral and they would have to pay for their quarantine stay.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the incident demonstrated that even when people were making “a deliberate attempt to get through”, the procedures in place would pick them up.
“For anyone considering breaching the rules that we have in place, you see in this case the family has been picked up and they have been put into a managed isolation facility, so there are consequences,” Ardern said.
“As for fines, those decisions sit elsewhere.”
D’Ath is urging people who have been to the listed exposure sites in Queensland and NSW to come forward and get tested regardless of showing symptoms or not.
As urgent contact tracing is underway to prevent an outbreak, The Sunshine Coast Health and Hospital Service has extended the opening hours of its existing COVID-19 testing sites.