The son of a woman dying from bowel cancer has had two quarantine exemption requests rejected by Queensland Health, described by authorities as the “most tragic of circumstances”.
The Courier-Mail reports Marko Marttila, 48, arrived in Queensland from the United States on Friday and was taken to a quarantine hotel.
He had been trying to get approval to self-isolate at his mother Anneli Marttila‘s Redcliffe home in Brisbane’s north east.
Sari Marttila told the newspaper her mother-in-law “lit up” when she found out her son was coming back to Australia.
However, it is unlikely she will last another 13 days, she said.
“The drastic decline that she’s had within the last two weeks, it’s just obvious, I’m not God but there’s no way we can see that she’ll still be around in two weeks time,” Ms Marttila told The Courier-Mail.
She said they would like someone to consider whether Mr Marttila could be let out “for just a few hours to see her, just anything that would give her the chance to say goodbye.”
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath responded to the report on Saturday.
“It is very difficult and it has been throughout the period of dealing with COVID in having to make these decisions in relation to people’s loved ones and wanting to visit them when they are terminally ill,” she told reporters.
“These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis and in this occasion, it has been assessed that the exemption is not granted. Of course, (Queensland) Health will do everything they can to find other ways that there can be communication between this individual and his mother while he is quarantining.”
She said the risk from international arrivals is increasing and the man came from Massachusetts where there have been 454,000 positive cases.
Asked about whether certain arrangements could be made, Chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said: “You couldn’t hold him back, he’d want to hug his mum, it just can’t happen safely. It’s tragic, it’s awful and I feel for him very, very much.”
“I hope his mother does survive the 14 days so that he can go and see her,” she added.
“We’ve seen this (virus) very, very rapidly transfer, within 24-48 hours. So he could transfer it to her and then she could transfer it to someone else. The risk is too high.”
In a statement provided to news.com.au, a spokesman for Queensland Health said: “We understand the health directions in place are strict, but they are designed to protect Queenslanders from COVID-19.”
“Because of the growing risk internationally and the emergence of highly contagious variants, we are granting very few exemptions for people returning from overseas to quarantine at home,” he said.
“More than 75 per cent of the state’s cases have been infected overseas and many did not test positive until they were already in quarantine. ”We absolutely understand and sympathise that this is a very difficult time to navigate, however our quarantine policy has helped keep COVID-19 out of the community.”
Queensland Health describes exemptions from mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine as “rare”.
In the past week, the state’s health officials decided to evacuate the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane after discovering a cluster of six cases of a highly contagious COVID-19 strain from the United Kingdom. Dr Young on Saturday said it was “a little bit too early” to rule it had been contained but “it is looking promising”.