How did a Melbourne couple cross NSW and Queensland when their home city was already in lockdown due to COVID-19?
As multiple towns across southern Queensland and New South Wales deal with the possibility of fresh COVID-19 outbreaks, authorities are asking how and why a Melbourne couple began an interstate road trip from a city already in lockdown.
Late on Wednesday, Queensland Health revealed a 44-year-old Melbourne woman who left Victoria with her husband on June 1 and drove through NSW and into Queensland on June 5 had tested positive for coronavirus in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast.
Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said they were investigating whether the couple's road journey constituted a border breach.
"We've got a couple that have come from Victoria — when Victoria is in a lockdown — into Queensland," he said.
"All the aspects of how that's occurred, including what's happened in the other states, that will [be done] in a cooperative manner with our colleagues in Victoria and NSW.
"We'll examine all those issues around passes, whether they are appropriate, and what has happened.
"We cannot possibly check every single person moving about the country — we rely on the community doing the right thing."LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic'People are worried'
Caloundra Chamber of Commerce chairman Michael Shadforth said many business owners in the town were feeling apprehensive about the situation and what it might mean for their businesses.
"People are worried about if it gets worse, and if there has been infections, or it has been transferred, what that will mean," Mr Shadforth said.
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"We haven't had this situation happen on the Sunny Coast before. We are not really used to dealing with this, so it is a bit of new experience."
Mr Shadforth said he believed QR code check-in systems for contact tracing in Sunshine Coast hospitality venues had been used "diligently".
"Everyone is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst and starting to think about alternate plans," he said.'Disruptive in a border community'
The couple crossed into Queensland through the border town of Goondiwindi on June 5, but the woman had begun suffering from COVID-19 symptoms two days earlier.Here's what you need to know about Victoria's COVID outbreak:
Goondiwindi Regional Council Mayor Lawrence Springborg said the local community was concerned about the case and was asking if border checkpoints were needed in future, knowing they would potentially be extremely disruptive.
Mr Springborg said there were no active checkpoints at the NSW border near Goondiwindi, though police had been conducting random checks of cars.
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"Previously, when we have had COVID declarations, we've had a border checkpoint in place that happened on two occasions last year" he said.
"We certainly do want to have the maximum amount of liberty for our own freedoms.
"It's very, very disruptive in a border community, because then you've got to put in place processes, checkpoints, that affect kids going to school or people going to work, people accessing medical treatment, people servicing their farms, all of those sorts of things. It is a major disruptor."
"We would be most concerned if, after investigation, it's proven that a person was aware of the circumstances and has disregarded them and it's potentially caused major disruption and particular risk to other people."Read more about Australia's vaccine rollout:'We need to contain it'
Public health expert Catherine Bennett, from Melbourne's Deakin University, said the case would be particularly concerning if it proved to involve the Delta or Kappa variant of COVID-19.
"Firstly, they need to check that it is a true positive, if it is tied to the Melbourne outbreaks, whether it is Delta or Kappa — they are both variants that spread quite effectively," Professor Bennett said.
She said most infections in newer variants still occured with very close contacts, so it was encouraging the woman's partner had not tested positive despite travelling in the same car.
Professor Bennett said the Delta variant could potentially be infectious to 20 per cent of close contacts and around 14 per cent of anybody within the same household.
"We need to contain it while we don't have a vaccinated population, but it is certainly manageable if we get on top of it quickly," she said.
"They're also testing the family members that they've been staying with, [and] if they return negative tests, then that would also be a very good sign that there is very little infection risk to people who've had more casual exposure."What you need to know about coronavirus:
Professor Bennett said if it turned out the couple had no exemption to travel, it raised concerns for contact tracing and public health messaging.
"Crossing the interstate borders twice, to get through NSW to Queensland, really just isn't worth the risk," she said.
"It would just be terrible if at this late stage, we now got another complication in another state that was completely avoidable."
The Sunshine Coast Health and Hospital Service has extended the opening hours of its existing COVID-19 testing sites.Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak