Pandemic travellers locked in hotels have won the right to leave their rooms and step out into the open air.
Pandemic travellers locked in hotels have won the right to leave their rooms and step out into the open air.

Travellers to be let out of hotel rooms

Human rights watchdogs have demanded outdoor "wellness walks'' for quarantined travellers and told police not to target pandemic rule-breakers too poor to pay hefty fines.

 

Warning that fining Aboriginals over COVID-19 breaches could lead to deaths in custody, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has intervened in states' pandemic planning.

And Queensland Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall has insisted that quarantined travellers be given the same rights to fresh air and exercise as prisoners, through daily "wellness walks''.

Queensland Health has now approved outdoor breaks within hotel grounds for travellers in two-week lockdown - despite concerns that hotel quarantine breaches sparked Melbourne's deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

"It's important that individuals are able to have access to fresh air and breaks to maintain proper standards of treatment, because they are effectively being deprived of their liberty,'' Mr McDougall told The Courier-Mail yesterday.

"We recognise there are obvious health risks.

"Obviously given what happened in Victoria, the breaks need to be managed really carefully.''

Mr McDougall has also warned Queensland cops not to target people too poor to pay the $1334 fines for flouting COVID-19 rules on social distancing.

"We're concerned there are people who aren't able to afford them,'' he told The Courier-Mail.

The AHRC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar said fines must not "disproportionately impact the most vulnerable in our society''.

"I am particularly concerned about the potential impacts of hefty fines on people who do not have the financial means to pay them off,'' she said yesterday.

"Our First Nations communities know how inability to pay fines has in the past led to our incarceration and in the worse cases, has been associated with deaths in custody.''

Mr McDougall wants Queensland Police to publish data on the age, gender, birthplace, language, suburb and Indigenous status of everyone fined over COVID-19 breaches.

"It is important to evaluate the impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and (migrant) communities of enforcement of public health directions,'' he has told a Queensland parliamentary inquiry into COVID-19.

Mark Talbot is in quarantine but is being denied the chance to see his sick mother. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Mark Talbot is in quarantine but is being denied the chance to see his sick mother. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

Mr McDougall has convinced Queensland Health to switch hotels so that quarantined travellers have access to balconies and windows that open.

He said quarantined travellers - including those from overseas or designated COVID-19 "hot spots'' of Victoria, NSW and the ACT - should have a "wellness walk'' each day.

"No one is released from their hotel room for a wellness break if they've tested positive,'' he said.

Inspector Owen Hortz at the Voco hotel in Surfers Paradise. Picture: Ryan Keen
Inspector Owen Hortz at the Voco hotel in Surfers Paradise. Picture: Ryan Keen

A Queensland Health spokesman yesterday said quarantined traveller could be let out of their rooms for exercise so long as they stay on hotel grounds.

"There are some circumstances whereby people may leave their rooms while in quarantine however they must remain on the hotel's property unless they receive approval,'' he said.

"Leaving the hotel's property to take a walk is not considered a valid reason as it poses too great a risk to the general public.''

Queensland Police monitor quarantine hotels, unlike Victoria where lax private security contractors helped spread COVID-19 from sick travellers in Melbourne hotels.

Originally published as Quarantined travellers to be let out of hotel rooms


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