Hotel quarantine crackdown as three new Qld cases detected
Queensland authorities are cracking down on hotel quarantine exemptions in a bid to stop highly-contagious mutant strains escaping into the community.
The state is on high alert after a young Queensland woman tested positive in hotel quarantine to a more contagious mutant strain of COVID-19 causing havoc in South Africa.
It comes as three new cases were revealed in Queensland today, all acquired overseas and detected in hotel quarantine, taking the state's active cases to 14.
Queensland Health has revealed it has approved just 104 exemption requests out of 34,774 lodged since June for overseas and domestic travellers to skip government-mandated hotel quarantine and instead do their mandatory 14-days isolation at home.
But exemptions have become even more scarce since November when only one international traveller was granted an exemption as Queensland Health tightened criteria in the wake of outbreaks interstate when the virus escaped quarantine.
"This was granted around two months prior to the applicant's travel date and would not have been approved under the current circumstances," the department said.
Many exemption requests came from interstate travellers, those hoping to quarantine at home, visit a dying relative or attend a private viewing of someone who had passed away.
"The vast majority were for people coming from interstate and most were approved based on the applicants' complex healthcare needs," the statement said.
"Our quarantine policies have changed significantly since June to reflect rising case numbers globally and the threat of the new variants."
Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said even fewer exemptions would be granted in light of the escalating risk for travellers bringing highly contagious strains into Queensland.
"The risk unfortunately over the last few months has escalated - we are seeing more and more positive cases in the people that return from overseas," she said earlier this week.
"We are seeing two new variants that I find very concerning … we cannot allow people to quarantine elsewhere … it is too much of a risk for the Queensland community."
Health Minster Yvette D'Ath said the South African case reaffirmed how important it was that Queensland maintained its strong hotel quarantine program.
"Anyone coming from overseas should expect that they will have to spend their 14 days in hotel quarantine or in hospital, that very few exemptions will be granted because we are seeing an increased risk based on the positive cases overseas and the number of positive cases we are now … returned to Australia and of course this new variant," she said.
"So we do ask that people who are travelling from overseas understand that those are the requirements, of course they can make an application but they should expect that they would be spending the 14 days in quarantine."
Originally published as Hotel quarantine crackdown as three new cases detected