Palaszczuk to ban diplomatic exemptions from hotel quarantine in Queensland

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Diplomatic and consular staff returning to Queensland from overseas will be banned from skipping hotel quarantine, after a Government contractor tested positive for coronavirus.

The man in his 20s returned to Queensland from Afghanistan last week on a commercial flight via Sydney, but was given an exemption to quarantine at his home in Toowoomba.

He has since tested positive to coronavirus, sparking a public health alert for his Sydney to Sunshine Coast flight.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had said the man was exempt from hotel quarantine because of national guidelines surrounding consulate staff.

She said the practice will be banned from Wednesday.

“Once again, Queensland will go it alone to protect Queenslanders,” she said.

On Tuesday morning, Ms Palaszczuk asked Queensland police to investigate how the security contractor was given a federal exemption to bypass hotel quarantine.

She said Queensland authorities were given federal documents on a Department of Foreign Affairs letterhead, along with an exemption provided by New South Wales authorities for the man’s interstate travel to Queensland.

She said she had asked Queensland police to examine whether the documents were false.

The DFAT letter, obtained by the ABC, confirmed the man was “travelling on essential Australian Government business”.

‘He did all the right things’

But by Tuesday evening, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said while the man had done nothing wrong, she wanted to see all overseas travellers go into mandatory hotel quarantine.

“This exemption is a problem. We’ve seen that in Queensland this week,” Dr Young said.

“A person was able to arrive in Queensland from overseas on a consular exemption, and he had COVID-19.

“I am very grateful to this person — he did all the right things — but was granted an exemption from hotel quarantine.

“We can no longer allow this. With the high cases overseas, the risk is simply too high.”

The State Government said it was New South Wales authorities who approved the man’s cross-border flight into Queensland and, once here, Dr Young approved his quarantine exemption in line with national guidelines for diplomatic staff.

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