The ACT is being “unfairly” deemed a coronavirus hot spot despite the Territory having no cases in two months, Chief Minister Andrew Barr says.
Federal MPs have lashed out at Queensland authorities after a Canberra woman was unable to attend her father’s funeral on Thursday despite lobbying from the Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has rejected having any responsibility in the decision, passing the buck to the state’s chief health officer.
Dr Jeannette Young said Canberra was defined as a hot spot because it was in the middle of NSW, and there were “a lot of cases” in Batemans Bay on the NSW south coast in late July.
“A lot of Canberra have weekend residences they go to in Batemans Bay,” Dr Young said.
“We have seen it happen. Unfortunately, for people who live in Canberra, they are deemed as being in a hot spot (and) need to be managed as such.
“It is very hard, I can understand that for people who live in Canberra, to understand why they can’t freely travel into Queensland.”
Ten cases were linked to the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club and two to schools in the area a month ago.
The ACT has not had a single COVID-19 case in 62 days and no community transmission since the pandemic began.
But Mr Barr on Friday said it wasn’t just Queensland incorrectly calling Canberra a hot spot.
“I think we’re being unfairly treated by South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia,” he said.
“They are all wrong when it comes to calling the ACT a hot spot. We never have been.”
Under a draft definition being considered by National Cabinet, a hot spot would be a metropolitan area with 10 locally acquired cases a day or a regional area with three cases a day over three consecutive days.
Ms Palaszczuk was on Friday asked if the restrictions on Canberra needed to be reconsidered.
“From memory, someone came through Canberra into Queensland with the virus,” she said in response.
But Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told Sky News that the strong border was being “mismanaged” as the ACT was in a “better position” than Queensland.
Senator Cormann said the decision not to let the 26-year-old woman attend her father’s funeral was heartbreaking and “plain disgraceful”.
“That girl did not present a risk for holding her dad’s hand while he was passing away or comforting her mum and her sister,” he said.
“I just can’t get my head around that somebody could be so cold-hearted and so harsh and so nasty to prevent a girl in those circumstances to say farewell to her dad, be there with her family while they are grieving.
“It is completely and utterly the wrong thing to do, at least show some humanity in the circumstances and make a genuine assessment of the actual risk.”
Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said if exemptions couldn’t be granted in those circumstances, someone needed to investigate the way their exemption power was being used.
The ACT is unable to close its border to NSW but has managed the risks of politicians and staff flying in from all corners of the country without any transmission.
In April, the ACT became the first jurisdiction in Australia to begin testing of randomly selected symptomatic people who didn’t otherwise meet the testing criteria.
Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie told ABC Breakfast that she hoped National Cabinet could agree to a hot spot definition so that COVID-free areas including border communities and Canberra residents could travel freely within the nation.
“The human toll is mounting and we’re seeing some really tragic outcomes for individuals, for businesses and the like,” she said.
“We’ve got to get this right and show leadership.”
Originally published as ‘Nasty’: Border call that doesn’t stack up