Queensland man not a consular official, DFAT reveals after he bypassed hotel quarantine

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Questions have been raised about Queensland’s latest coronavirus case after it was revealed the man was not a consular official but was still granted an exemption to bypass hotel quarantine.

The man, in his 20’s, arrived in Sydney from Afghanistan, then flew to the Sunshine Coast last Friday, before driving to his home in Toowoomba.

He tested positive to coronavirus after landing in Maroochydore and health officials believed he was infectious whilst travelling, sparking a rush to contact trace other passengers.

Over the weekend, the state’s Chief Health Officer said the man was a “consulate staffer” who had been granted a national exemption from mandatory hotel quarantine.

But overnight the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said in a statement that was false.

“Reports that a ‘consular’ officer has tested positive for COVID-19 in Queensland are not correct,” the statement said.

In response, Queensland Health confirmed the man was a “security worker” but was still given the greenlight to skip hotel quarantine under national exemptions.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade wrote to confirm the man was ‘travelling on essential Australian Government business’,” Queensland Health said.

“He confirmed he held a diplomatic passport and provided his passport number.”

Yesterday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk labelled the exemption a “loophole” she wanted to close and said she would be taking the matter to national cabinet.

“I don’t think the time is right now for those exemptions,” she said.

“I just don’t think we need to have any elements of risk at the moment.

“I think now is the time for overseas travellers to definitely go into mandatory hotel quarantine.”

Queensland Health said “irrespective of this person’s circumstances,” it was concerned with the number of exemptions being granted overall.

“The AHPPC (Australian Health Protection Principal Committee) is reviewing criteria and will provide advice to national cabinet,” the department said.

DFAT have been contacted for further comment.

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