In what’s sure to wrinkle at least a few brows, it turns out that billionaire mining and media boss Kerry Stokes, along with his wife, received a special quarantine exemption from Western Australia police two weeks ago after returning to the country from Aspen in the United States, a known coronavirus hot spot.
Reports emerged this afternoon that Stokes managed to skirt the mandatory two-week hotel lockdown order on medical grounds after he and his wife arrived back in Australia aboard their own private jet.
Stokes is said to have landed in Perth on April 8th, and was allowed by WA Police to isolate in his Dalkeith home, rather than spend the mandatory two-week quarantine in hotel confinement like virtually all other arriving travellers.
That flies in the face of the authoritative language WA Premier Mark McGowan used on March 27th in confirming the restrictions. At the time, the Premier stated that the rule was “for all Australians coming home from overseas into any state across the country,” and that “there will be no exemptions on this.”
“Any West Australians who are also still overseas and want to come back, they will not be allowed to go home – they will need to stay in self-isolation at Rottnest or a hotel. Any other Australians coming home from overseas into WA will also be self-isolated in a hotel or at Rottnest,” the Premier stated.
Despite that edict, WA Police spokespeople confirmed that Stokes was granted an exemption from the strict hotel quarantine on medical grounds, claiming the 79-year-old billionaire had recently undergone a medical procedure, though the exact nature of that was not disclosed.
On March 28th it was confirmed that Stokes was locked down in the Colorado town of Beaver Creek, where he owns a $15 million penthouse near Aspen’s skiing fields. Colorado alone currently has somewhere around 10,447 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 486 deaths.
There are provisions in the Western Australian lockdown restrictions for exemptions to be issued on medical and compassionate grounds, however anecdotal evidence suggests those have not been applied judiciously. Notably, COVID-19 patient Barry Preedy was prevented from leaving his hotel quarantine to visit his wife Maureen, who was in isolation in hospital with the disease. Maureen later passed away from the illness.
It should be said that there may well be a fair and justifiable reason for the exemption to be applied in Stokes’ case. However given the language used by the Premier and previous cases in Western Australia, you’ve gotta say the optics here aren’t exactly sparkling.