Deadly silence: State battles to track virus as infected teen won’t talk

Three women at the centre of Queensland’s COVID-19 emergency went to Melbourne for a party – where they were fined for doing the wrong thing. One is now refusing to help Queensland health authorities track down a possible virus outbreak.

Jul 30, 2020, updated Jul 31, 2020
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has banned unvaccinated student nurses from hospitals and aged care. (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has banned unvaccinated student nurses from hospitals and aged care. (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

The woman, currently in the Princess Alexandra Hospital along with her sick travelling companion, has refused to reveal her movements since they returned.

Two of the three women, both 19, who travelled last week have tested positive to COVID-19 and one has infected her sister, 22, prompting a rapid response from Queensland Health to prevent an outbreak.

Police continue to investigate their actions – and have threatened tougher punishment for the woman who has yet to cooperate – as health authorities warn the threat to local communities is far from over.

Two schools have been closed, along with dozens of businesses, and 94 aged care facilities have been placed into lockdown – even without contacting tracing being completed. Almost 1000 people were tested yesterday alone in potentially affected areas of Logan, Brisbane and Ipswich.

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll today said the young women who allegedly lied on a travel declaration form after flying back from Melbourne, via Sydney, would have to front court.

“I am obviously bitterly disappointed that we’re at this stage,” Carroll said, adding that she believed the women’s actions were premeditated.

“They went to extraordinary lengths to be deceitful and deceptive and quite frankly criminal in their behaviour.”

The women attended a party of 20-30 people in Melbourne that caused a disturbance. Victorian police were called, issuing infringement notices to the women and others present, and have since been able to provide their Queensland counterparts with a list of attendees to rule out the involvement of other Queenslanders.

Police are still investigating and may yet lay charges over the failure to cooperate. While 14 people have been fined for giving inaccurate information on border declarations, Carroll wants a stronger deterrent and expects the women to front court.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said authorities were contact-tracing where they could and urging anyone with symptoms to stay home and seek health advice.

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While health warnings have been distributed in a dozen languages, and community leaders engaged to help spread the message, Young said they were responding without a key piece of the puzzle.

“Unfortunately, the second confirmed case has not wanted to let us know where she has been,” Young said.

The woman who infected her sister has cooperated with authorities, leading to the publication of a list of places she had visited while contagious. The other woman with COVID-19 has not cooperated, while the third woman from the trip was only identified late Wednesday. She is also in isolation but has yet to test positive.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk expressed frustration that despite Queensland’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there were still people intent on doing the wrong thing.

“I am angry,” Palaszczuk said, on a day when a tabloid newspaper identified the women and labelled them “Enemies of the State”.

“I’m not the court system but what they have done is put the health and wellbeing and lives of Queenslanders at risk. I think that speaks volumes.”

Young said that although no additional cases had been identified overnight, some results were still outstanding, and she could not comment on the likelihood of the outbreak being contained.

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