At least five more Victorians have been found trying to sneak into Queensland during the recent southern COVID lockdown.
Queensland Police confirmed the border breaches as it was revealed a Melbourne couple who fled lockdown and travelled through NSW to the Sunshine Coast may face charges amid rising anger at their three-state road trip.
The husband and wife both tested positive to COVID this week, while staying with the woman’s parents in Caloundra, on the Sunshine Coast.
On Friday, Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said people who tried to dodge border rules would be caught.
“We will be making sure that you are found. This is an offence,” she said.
“You cannot come into this state if you are from a hotspot and put our state at risk. And we will make sure that you will face the consequences if you do that.”
Victoria had no locally acquired coronavirus cases to report on Friday, on day one of Melbourne’s return to a post-lockdown life.
It is the first day since mid-May, when Victoria’s latest outbreaks began to emerge, that there have been no community cases anywhere in the state.
“It is good news and news I know everyone in Victoria wanted to hear,” Acting Premier James Merlino said, although he warned against complacency in the days ahead.
So far, despite the Melbourne couple’s journey, which took in regional towns across NSW and the sunshine state, there is no sign of any community transmission of the coronavirus in Queensland.
They are known to have visited sites in Gillenbah, Dubbo, Forbes and Moree, Goondiwindi, Toowoomba and the southern Sunshine Coast.
More than 300 people have been forced into isolation and are getting tested as a result of the couple’s arrival.
Of them, 41 – including the woman’s parents – had returned negative coronavirus tests by Friday morning.
There were no new local COVID cases in Queensland on Friday, from almost 6000 tests in the past 24 hours. NSW also had no community infections.
The infected couple, who left suburban Melton, in Melbourne’s outer-west, on June 1 to drive to the Sunshine Coast, are being investigated by police.
“They shouldn’t have left Victoria, and you know it just puts people at risk,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Friday.
“I know there’s an investigation into that, I don’t want to jeopardise that investigation.”
Queensland Police said interviews with the couple had so far been confined to contact tracing. They will not be interviewed about any possible offence until health authorities give the all-clear – likely within a week.
The husband and wife were moving permanently to Queensland, where the man had a new job.
The woman developed symptoms first, on June 3. They did not arrive in Caloundra until June 5 – with Melbourne’s COVID lockdown lasting until Friday (June 10).
Sunshine Coast mayor Mark Jamison said there was anger in the community about the risk they’ve been exposed to.
“People are obviously angry and annoyed that somebody would put the health of this region and others at risk by foolishly taking that trip from Melbourne through NSW to the Sunshine Coast,” he told the Nine network.
“Clearly it’s had an impact on the business community in and around Caloundra, particularly at the exposure sites. That’s caused great inconvenience for those operators.
“But people generally are just angry at the fact that someone, I guess, could be so foolish.”
On Thursday, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the Victorian couple had presented “real and present danger” to regional communities
Federal Defence Minister Peter Dutton said communities in Queensland and those on alert in NSW were enduring an anxious wait.
“It really is quite unbelievable that somebody could be so irresponsible and the consequences so dire if it turns out that people have been infected on the trail all way up to Queensland,” he told Nine on Friday.
“I think the vast majority of Australians have made a huge sacrifice, doing the right thing and when you see people that aren’t it makes them very angry.”
Chief health officer Jeannette Young said the couple had the Kappa variant of the virus, rather than the even more virulent Delta strain that has also circulated in Melbourne.
She has expressed “increasing optimism” that community transmission might be avoided in Queensland, because the couple were in the late stages of their infections when they arrived in the state.
Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino has said the couple did not breach state rules by leaving, and moving interstate is allowed during lockdowns.
Dr Young has said the couple did not apply for a travel exemption to enter Queensland and it was up to police to investigate whether they came through under any other process.