A coronavirus-infected woman who fled locked-down Melbourne and went on a 1,900km road trip may have crossed the New South Wales-Queensland border at a remote town because she was moving interstate.
Health authorities in Victoria, NSW and Queensland are scrambling to track down hundreds of people who may have been exposed to the virus during their interstate trip.
The woman, 44, tested positive on Wednesday but may have been infectious from the day she left Melbourne on June 1, which was already in lockdown.
The woman is understood to have been tested only because her husband – who was confirmed to have the virus on Thursday – needed negative results for work purposes.
Police believe the couple crossed the NSW-Queensland border at the remote rural town of Goondiwindi on June 5 in a bid to evade authorities.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said the woman may have had a valid reason for the road trip and was following lockdown rules.
Health authorities in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland are scrambling to track down hundreds of people who may have been exposed to Covid-19 during a couple’s interstate trip. Police said the woman may have been relocating and in that case would not be breaking lockdown rules
A queue to receive a coronavirus vaccination is pictured at the Rocklea Showgrounds in Brisbane on June 5
The couple crossed the NSW/Queensland border at the remote town of Goondiwindi, four hours inland of the Gold Coast where police are much more strict with their patrols
He told ABC Melbourne she ‘may have been moving interstate and had a legitimate reason to travel’.
Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino said the couple wouldn’t have been breaking lockdown restrictions if they were permanently relocating to the Sunshine State.
There were earlier reports the woman lied on her declaration form when entering Queensland, sparking a chorus of public outrage led by Karl Stefanovic.
Today host Karl Stefanovic on Thursday morning called for the border-hopping couple to be named and shamed and have ‘the book thrown at them’.
‘I think there is understandable anger across regional Victoria, into regional NSW and then into some of those regional parts of Queensland as well particularly, because they have done such a great job protecting themselves against COVID,’ the Today show co-host fumed on Thursday morning.
‘A lot of people are furious. They have to throw the book at these people. They have to. I’m not averse to naming and shaming. We have to get this message through.’
Co-host Allison Langdon agreed the couple should be punished, but stopped short of demanding they be named and shamed.
‘My initial reaction is I want to know who they are, they’ve done the wrong thing but if you do that, you don’t have people coming forward and don’t have people getting tested,’ she argued.
Stefanovic continued his furious rant.
‘They are going to get named if they’re charged,’ he replied.
‘How do you not get it? How do you not get that message through and maybe embarrassment is a way of doing it.’
Stefanovic felt for residents in the regional towns the couple had driven through.
‘You’d be filthy if you lived in the country and these people had driven your town, wouldn’t you,’ he said shortly afterwards.
‘How does the message not get through? It puts enormous stress on people who are now waiting for tests and enormous stress on businesses.
‘Let’s just hope [the couple has] got a good excuse.’
Stefanovic had weighed into the debate following an interview with Queensland-based Royal Australian College of General Practitioners vice president Dr Bruce Willett.
Karl Stefanovic (right) called for the couple to be named and shamed but co-host Allison Langdon (left) disagreed
‘I think there’s a lot of anger and disappointment really that people would do this. People’s lives are at stake and also people’s livelihoods with shutdowns,’ Dr Willett told the program.
‘I think it’s a wait and see game. I think we have to keep our fingers crossed that there are no more cases in the near future and we avoid the lockdown.
‘I think the important lesson from this is this can happen anywhere, anytime.’
Dr Willett added Queenslanders would like to the couple to be charged.
It’s understood the woman broke lockdown to visit her family in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast.
She had been experiencing symptoms – including loss of her sense of smell – from June 3 but only sought a test on June 8.
In an extraordinary twist, the pair were only detected when they came forward for testing because the husband needed negative results for work purposes.
The Today co-hosts weighed into the debate following an interview with Queensland-based Royal Australian College of General Practitioners vice president Dr Bruce Willett (right)
Three states are scrambling to contain a potential Covid outbreak after an infected woman left locked-down Melbourne and drove through NSW to the Sunshine Coast (Mooloolaba pictured)
Six close contacts of the woman have been identified so far, including her husband who has to date tested negative.
The remaining five close contacts are quarantining at a house together on the Sunshine Coast until their results come back.
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young fears the woman’s partner could become infected, given how much time the pair spent in the car together.
Both are now at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.
Dr Young has said it is possible the woman was infectious from the day she left Melbourne.
‘She could well have been infectious while travelling through New South Wales and I have been working with my colleague to determine that,’ she said on Wednesday.
Authorities are working to track down close contacts and investigate whether she and her partner broke three states’ COVID rules.
The positive woman was at Bunnings in Caloundra, QLD between 12.10pm – 12.45pm on June 7
The woman visited Goondiwindi McDonalds on June 5 between 7.35am – 7.50am
VENUES ON ALERT ACROSS NSW AND QUEENSLAND AS INFECTED WOMAN’S TIMELINE IS REVEALED
Left Melbourne and drove across the border to regional New South Wales
10.30-11am: Gillenbah, Caltex Narrandera
6pm-10pm: Forbes, Vandenberg Hotel
7-10am: Forbes, Brew Coffee Bar
10.30-11.30am: Dubbo, Shell Petrol Station
11.30am-2.30pm: Dubbo, Church Street Cafe
6-10pm: Dubbo, Reading Cinemas
Midnight-10am: Dubbo, Homestead Motel
1.30-4.30pm: Moree, Cafe Omega
From 1.45pm onwards: Moree, Gwydir Carpark/Motel & Thermal Pools
3.30-4.30pm: Moree, Woolworths
All day until 7.30am June 5 : Moree, Gwydir Carpark/Motel & Thermal Pools
7-9.30am: Moree, Cafe Omega
11.50-2pm: Moree, Cafe Omega
4.30-11pm: Moree, Amaroo Tavern
Arrived at Goondiwindi border and crossed into Queensland
7.35-7.50am: Goondiwindi, McDonalds
11-11.15am: Toowoomba, Caltex
Travelled to Sunshine Coast
2.45-3pm: Moffat Beach, Sunny’s
3.30 – 4.30pm: Coffee Cat in Kings Beach
10.45-11.30am: Stockland Caloundra Shopping Centre – Coffee Club and Kmart stores
12.10 – 12.45pm: Caloundra, Bunnings
1-2pm: Buddina, Kawana Shoppingworld
3.50-4pm: Caloundra, Baringa IGA
Victorians were forbidden from travelling more than five kilometres from home at the time the woman began her trip on June 1.
NSW did not shut its border with Victoria, but any travellers from the state were supposed to abide by the lockdown rules even in NSW.
Queensland required all Victorian arrivals to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine.
Instead, the woman visited numerous venues in Queensland and NSW.
She stopped at a service station in Gillenbah and Dubbo on her way through NSW, but also visited several cafes in Forbes and Moree and caught a movie at the Reading Cinemas at Dubbo.
The couple had visited the Kawana Shoppingworld in Queensland between 1pm-2pm on June 7
Eleven venues in the four towns have been identified by NSW Health as potential exposure sites.
Anyone who attended venues must immediately get tested and isolate.
NSW Health is urging anyone who has been in any of the affected towns to monitor for symptoms and get tested.
Pop-up testing clinics will be set up and opening hours extended to support the increase in testing.
The pair were only detected when the couple came forward for testing because the man needed negative results for work purposes – with health authorities admitting it was down to luck that the case was caught (pictured Melbourne this week)
Queensland’s list of exposure sites include a McDonald’s restaurant in Goondiwindi, where they crossed the border from NSW, and sites on the Sunshine Coast, including at Moffat Beach, Kings Beach, Buddina, Baringa and Caloundra.
The couple also travelled through Toowoomba, west of Brisbane. The list of exposure sites is on the Queensland Health website and will inevitably grow.
Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said Queensland Police will be investigating why the couple entered into the sunshine state.
‘We’ve got a couple that have come from Victoria, when Victoria’s in lockdown, into Queensland,’ he said.
‘We’ll examine all those issues around passes – whether they were appropriate and what has happened – it is too early to say.
‘It’s really important for us to remind the whole community that we cannot possibly check every single person moving around the country.’