COVID case who avoided quarantine ‘not a consular official’
A man who returned to Queensland and avoided mandatory hotel quarantine after saying he was a consular official was a private security contractor, according to DFAT.
It's understood the man, believed to be in his 20s, returned to Sydney after from Afghanistan, where he was employed by a private security firm based at the Australian Embassy.
He applied to serve the remainder of his quarantine period in self-isolation at home in Toowoomba.
Sources have told The Courier-Mail he was allegedly listed as a consular official on a border declaration pass to travel into Queensland.
The Federal Government asked states to facilitate the return of Australian diplomats and consular staff during the pandemic without the need to enter hotel quarantine.
Private contractors have no official diplomatic standing.
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said reports that a "consular" officer had tested positive for COVID-19 in Queensland were wrong.
"The individual concerned is a private security contractor, not a diplomatic or consular staff member," she said.
A Queensland Health spokesman said the exemption to travel to Queensland was granted under arrangements agreed nationally in June.
"The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade wrote to confirm the man was 'travelling on essential Australian Government business'," he said.
"He confirmed he held a diplomatic passport and provided his passport number.
"Irrespective of this person's circumstances, 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."
Queensland Health approved the man's request to self-quarantine at home, allowing him to catch a Jetstar flight from Sydney to Maroochydore last Friday before driving to Toowoomba, where he tested positive for coronavirus.
His test result sparked a health alert as officials, who believed he was infectious on the flight, scrambled to contact passengers seated near him.
A Queensland Health spokesman said authorities were "looking into this matter further".
The case threw a spotlight on the issue of diplomats and consular officials being granted exemptions from mandatory hotel quarantine after returning from overseas.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Monday took aim at the exemptions and promised to raise the issue with other leaders at National Cabinet on Friday.
"I think now is the time for overseas travellers to definitely go into mandatory hotel quarantine," she said.
"There have been some exemptions.
"I don't think the time is right now for those exemptions however that is going to be a matter for the chief health officers around the country to look at."
She wrote on Facebook that federal government had created nationwide exemptions for consular officials returning from international trips.
A Border Force spokeswoman said decisions to cease, transfer or exempt individuals from quarantine and undertake domestic travel was a "matter between and by state and territory authorities".
She said ABF officers only assessed requests for travel exemptions to enable foreign nationals to travel to Australia.
Originally published as COVID case who avoided quarantine 'not a consular official'