An Aussie who’s since tested positive for COVID-19 was allowed to fly from Afghanistan to Sydney, take a connecting flight to Maroochydore, then drive to his home in Toowoomba, all while avoiding the Australia’s regular hotel quarantine requirements.
The man in his 20s had claimed to be a consular official, the Courier Mail reports, but it turns out he was actually a private security contractor at the Australian Embassy in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, he was still granted an exemption to board a domestic flight immediately after touching down in Australia.
Jetstar and Queensland Health are now scrambling to contact the 149 other passengers on his flight, since he was infectious at the time.
Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio told the NCA Newswire the man was now isolating at home.
“I think we should all be happy he’s been isolated quickly, and we hope that’s been enough to protect the people of the community I care about,” he said.
Now Queensland is looking at cutting back on how many exemptions are granted.
“I think now is the time for overseas travellers to definitely go into mandatory hotel quarantine,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters on Monday.
“Irrespective of this person’s circumstances, we are concerned with the number of overall exemptions and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee is reviewing criteria and will provide advice to National Cabinet,” a Queensland Health spokesperson told the Courier Mail.
These diplomatic exemptions were negotiated between the federal and state governments back in June in order to allow Aussie diplomats and consular officials to come home easily.
On Tuesday, Palaszczuk also asked police to investigate the situation after the man showed airport staff a letter supposedly from DFAT.
“If there is any suggestion that it is not an authentic letter, then that needs to be investigated by the police,” she said.
There are currently 12 active coronavirus cases in Queensland, hence why the state government’s keen to keep its borders sealed. The situation in Afghanistan, like most other countries, is more severe with almost 10,000 active cases.Image: Getty Images / James D. Morgan