A Melbourne couple who left lockdown and travelled through NSW and Queensland before being diagnosed with Covid-19 could be facing punishment from three states, with jail time a possibility.
Queensland is now dealing with two interstate-acquired coronavirus cases after a 44-year-old woman and her husband left Victoria while unknowingly infected and set off on road trip to the Sunshine Coast.
The pair left Victoria on June 1, four days after a statewide lockdown had come into force, and travelled through regional NSW and Queensland before the woman tested positive for Covid-19 on June 8 in Caloundra.
Queensland Health authorities confirmed yesterday that her husband had also tested positive to the virus. They are both in isolation at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.
The news came shortly after Victorian authorities revealed four new Covid-19 infections had been recorded.
The cases came from the same household, but the source of the infections is still not known.
According to the Courier Mail, police are waiting until it is considered safe to interview the Melbourne pair about their movements.
Yesterday, Victoria’s Acting Premier James Merlino said health officials were conducting interviews with the couple and flagged the possibility that they may have been moving house, which would mean they didn’t break the state’s lockdown rules.
Authorities are yet to determine whether the pair broke border rules in NSW or Queensland.
Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young revealed yesterday the couple did not have an exemption to enter the state, with questions also being raised about why they didn’t undergo a mandatory two-week hotel quarantine period upon entry.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said on Thursday there were a “range of penalties” for people who broke travel border rules.
In Queensland, breaching border requirements could result in an on-the-spot fine of A$4003 (NZ$4313), a court-imposed penalty of up to A$13,345, or six months’ imprisonment.
Providing false, misleading or incorrect information on a border declaration form could also result in these penalties.
NSW did not shut its border to Victoria during the lockdown period, though any travellers from the state were required to abide by the lockdown rules in NSW.
Not complying with an NSW public health order can result in a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to A$11,000.
It is possible the couple could face a similar punishment to the three young Logan women who breached Covid-19 restrictions by travelling across all three states at the height of the pandemic in 2020.
The group were fined in Victoria and then faced charges in NSW and Queensland as a result of their actions.
More Qld, NSW exposure sites
Authorities are scrambling to trace the movements of the couple, with the pair making multiple stops during their road trip from Victoria to Queensland, via NSW.
The list of exposure sites across NSW and Queensland has grown to 39, with Dubbo, Moree, Forbes, Caloundra, Buddina and Baringa just some of the areas impacted.
Questions have been raised about how the couple managed to enter Queensland undetected if they did not have a travel exemption.
Their route through NSW shows they crossed the Queensland border at Goondiwindi – a town on the Macintyre River, 350km southwest of Brisbane.
According to the Courier Mail, one theory about the couple’s route is that they chose to cross the border at Goondiwindi because the focus of police patrols were on the border at the Gold Coast.
However, the inland drive from Victoria to Queensland, crossing the border at Goondiwindi, is a popular route.
It is still not known how the couple were infected with Covid, but early investigations suggest they may be linked to the Craigieburn Central shopping centre outbreak.
Victoria’s deputy chief health officer, Professor Allen Cheng, revealed one of the cases checked in at the shopping centre on May 23.
“I think the fact that we’ve been able to identify a possible link to the Craigieburn shopping centre within hours of hearing about these cases and even before being able to speak to these cases, really highlights the value that we have in QR codes that we can interrogate that database very quickly,” he said.
Dr Young said on Thursday that it appeared the couple were both towards the end of their infectious period. However, she said it was still extremely important for residents to come forward and get tested.
“It’s still there, and I still need everyone to come forward who develops any symptoms at all who lives in the Sunshine Coast, or Goondiwindi or Toowoomba – it’s very, very important,” she said.
So far authorities have identified 17 immediate close contacts of the couple, with three of those testing negative to the virus. Two of those negative results came from the parents that the couple were staying with in Queensland.
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