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Border farce: How an infected security guard convinced officials he was a 'diplomat'

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A man claiming diplomatic status who returned to Queensland and was subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19 was a security contractor, reinforcing the State Government’s call for a review of travel exemptions.

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The man had permission to fly to the Sunshine Coast from NSW on Friday without having to go into quarantine. He then drove home to Toowoomba.

On Sunday, he tested positive and is now in self-isolation with his wife in Toowoomba as health officials race to contact trace people who sat near him on the Jetstar flight from Sydney.

Yesterday it was revealed he was among 149 passengers on the heavily-booked 186-seat Jetstar flight.

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeanette Young, confirmed the passenger was infectious during the 90-minute domestic flight.

Queensland Health has been undertaking contact tracing to try and get in touch with the passengers onboard the flight, particularly 14 seated close by. All passengers have been urged to monitor their health and immediately get tested if they get any COVID-19 symptoms.

“We are struggling today to find two of those 14 people,” Young said on Tuesday, again raising concern that contact details of passengers on domestic flights were not required to be kept and passed on to authorities.

Queensland Health said the man was given an exemption to enter NSW, and another to enter Queensland, under arrangements agreed nationally in June by Australia’s National Cabinet of federal, state and territory leaders.

It’s now been revealed he was not a consular staff member and was in fact a security contractor who had recently returned from Kabul, in Afghanistan.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade wrote to confirm the man was ‘travelling on essential Australian Government business’,” Queensland Health said in a statement released late on Monday.

“He confirmed he held a diplomatic passport and provided his passport number.”

But, the department said, this turned out to be not quite correct.

“We are concerned with the number of overall exemptions and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee is reviewing criteria and will provide advice to National Cabinet,” it added.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the exemption issue needed to be reviewed.

“I’m going to raise this at National Cabinet,” she told reporters on Monday.

“There have been some exemptions. I don’t think the time is right now for those exemptions.”

“If we can close off any of those loopholes, it will keep everyone safe.”

Palaszczuk said all overseas travellers should be required to go into mandatory hotel quarantine.

There were no new cases recorded in Queensland on Monday or Tuesday.

Despite this, authorities remain on high alert, with health officials urging people with symptoms to get tested.

“This week is crucial,” Palaszczuk said.

Health officials are also continuing to trace people who may have had contact with three women who returned to Queensland from Victoria more than a week ago.

Young said it was likely more cases related to the women would be diagnosed.

“It’s now eight days since those first two cases who went to Melbourne … have been out in the community,” Young said.

Police also continue to check travellers attempting to enter Queensland, with 61 people turned around overnight on Sunday.

“Each of those people have come from a declared hotspot … or simply couldn’t provide sufficient evidence that they hadn’t come from a hotspot,” Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said.

Queensland has 12 active cases, with seven people being treated in hospital.

All 105 residents at the Bolton Clarke aged care facility in Brisbane’s southwest tested negative for the disease following fears an infected staff member may have spread the virus.

-AAP

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