Greg and Gloria Newlyn are desperate to visit Greg’s 93-year-old mother in Queensland.
- Queensland is refusing to back down on its tough border restrictions, despite criticism
- Some people who want to go to Queensland for medical and compassionate reasons are fearful of quarantining in a hotel
- The Queensland government says the process of exemptions has been politicised
The Canberra couple have been told she only has a short time to live.
“She’s very thin now and it’s just surprising that she’s actually still alive at this time,” Ms Newlyn told 7.30.
The Newlyns can only enter Queensland if they undergo two weeks in quarantine, even though the ACT hasn’t had an active case of COVID-19 in months.
They are happy to go into quarantine if the Queensland government would let them, but not in one of the designated hotels.
They fear they are more likely to catch the virus in a hotel — a risk they are not willing to take.
“I have a lung condition,” Ms Newlyn said.
“I’d probably die.”
The Queensland border rules treat Canberra as a hotspot due to the porous border with NSW.
“I feel very sorry for everybody in Canberra who’s in a similar position,” Mr Newlyn said.
“I think it’s just bloody-mindedness by the Queensland Premier.”
‘Zero risk’ patient baffled by border red tape
The Newlyns are not the only people unhappy with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s decision to keep Queensland’s borders largely closed to residents of Victoria, NSW and the ACT.
Trish Schneider has endured years of pain and surgery from severe complications from a pelvic mesh implant.
She lives in the northern New South Wales town of Casuarina, just over an hour by car from her team of specialists across the border in Brisbane.
“I did have my last consultation with my specialist on Zoom, and neither of us was particularly satisfied with that,” she told 7.30.
“When I made the next appointment, my specialist was very clear: ‘Trish, we need to see you’.”
Ms Schneider’s home is within the so-called “border bubble”, so she can actually enter Queensland, but only as far as the Gold Coast.
“I’ve no interest in repeating that performance.”
Ms Schneider said she was initially told by Queensland Health over the phone she could not travel beyond the border bubble into Brisbane.
After a series of calls and online applications for border passes, Ms Schneider’s understanding is that she can only see her doctors if she quarantines in a Brisbane hotel for two weeks.
She said that raises its own risks.
“To manage my health, there’s a lot of stuff I’ve got to do, and some of it is difficult,” she said.
The Queensland Government insists someone in Ms Schneider’s position is allowed to travel for a day trip and back, without hotel quarantine, so long as they have a note from a treating doctor.
But Ms Schneider, who is a trained midwife, said the system had never made such a pathway clear.
“When you apply for a border pass every week, you give to them the same information, and you get a very different answer each time, it becomes a little overwhelming and frustrating,” she said.
Ms Schneider believes she doesn’t pose a risk to anyone in Brisbane.
“I’ve got a background in health. I get it. I know the risks. I know the transmission. I understand it,” she said.
“But at the end of the day, [the current system’s] not working for people who need health care now.
“I pose zero risk, zero to the people of Brisbane, absolutely zero.”
Government defends tough border stance
The Queensland government insisted the hard border was necessary to prevent a major COVID-19 outbreak in the state.
“We need to remember that globally this pandemic is still getting worse, more people are still dying,” the state’s Health Minister Steven Miles said.
“That’s precisely why we need to keep this virus out.”
He said criticism from the Federal Government and the Queensland Opposition was “an attempt to make this a political issue in the lead up to the Queensland state election”.
“We have processes in place to allow people to visit dying relatives and loved ones,” Mr Miles said.
“We have processes in place for people to get exemptions to come to Queensland for funerals.
“They’re very similar arrangements that apply in South Australia, Tasmania, WA.
“Sometimes those decisions have been hard.
“But the result of those decisions, the cumulative result of those decisions, is Queensland having been kept safe.”
The Queensland Government said additional staff had been employed to handle medical and other exemption applications.
Newlyns fear they are running out of time
The Newlyns are hoping there will be a change of heart and policy by the Queensland Government.
But they believe they don’t have much time.
“The last information a couple of days ago was that my mother would probably last only one or two weeks,” Mr Newlyn said.
“I think she’s just hanging in there, waiting for us to come,” Ms Newlyn said.