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Maureen flew alone to Qld, only to land in isolation nightmare


The novelty of being the only person on a flight from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast quickly turned into a nightmare for 61-year-old Maureen Ellis.

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When she stepped off her Jetstar flight on Monday, she was greeted by an entourage of police, media and Queensland Health officials that left her feeling “overwhelmed” and “like a prisoner”.

A Jetstar spokesperson had advised the flight, which was was the first flight from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast since March, could carry up to 186 people.

The Sunshine Coast’s police superintendent Craig Hawkins held a press conference at the airport prior to the plane landing and said police and Queensland Health officials would ensure all the passengers would be forced into 14-day quarantine at a hotel at their own expense.

Then Ellis walked off the plane.

Police greet passenger

She said when she saw the entourage gathered to greet her she thought, “Oh my God, are you serious?”

“I was overwhelmed, I was overcome. My emotions just went whack. I felt like a prisoner, actually,” Ellis said.

Planning to call her sister-in-law to pick her up to take her on the short journey to her home, just five minutes away, Ellis found herself being escorted by police to a van with people wearing hospital masks and then transported to a hotel in Kawana.

Ellis tried to argue that she should be allowed to go home as she lived in a granny flat and would be isolated anyway, but was told this would not be possible.

“They stuck me in a hotel room at my own expense and they haven’t even tested me,” she said.

She was worried she might only be tested in a few days’ time and then would have to stay in the hotel longer and face an even bigger hotel bill.

Two police officers are stationed in a corridor outside her hotel room for 24 hours a day and she is not allowed to leave the room except for a short stroll down the corridor to a balcony for a smoke.

$200 a day for quarantine

The hotel will cost her $200 a day, including food, which she cannot afford because she is on WorkCover.

Ellis said she had travelled to Melbourne 10 days earlier to for an “important appointment” and to catch up with family.

As the pandemic began to spread throughout Melbourne, Ms Ellis thought she had better try to get home and found a Jetstar flight online and “just booked it” using her vouchers from a cancelled trip to Bali.

Ellis said she called Queensland Health on the Sunday before her flight and she understood she could go home to self-isolate for two weeks.

“I wanted to be sure everything was OK to come back in,” she said.

She said it was all pretty “rush, rush”, but she had no idea she would end up “isolated under police guard” at her own expense.

Ellis has spent the past few days in the hotel “watching TV, listening to music — bored basically”.

There were four other passengers who arrived on the next Jetstar flight from Melbourne into the Sunshine Coast on Tuesday who are also in quarantine in the hotel.

Jetstar has now advised no more flights would be coming in from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast as the Federal Government has stopped funding this route.

– ABC / Kathy Sundstrom and Robert Blackmore

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