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Coronavirus Australia: Outbreak fears as woman flees Melbourne to cross Queensland-NSW border

A woman who fled locked-down Melbourne and drove to Queensland with her husband before testing positive to Covid has sparked fears of outbreaks in three states as authorities scramble to find out who else was exposed to the virus.

Police believe the woman, 44, crossed the NSW/Queensland border at the remote rural town of Goondiwindi with her partner on June 5 in a bid to evade authorities. 

The couple, who left a suburb on the edge of greater Melbourne on June 1, likely drove the scenic route so they could avoid passing through the Gold Coast – where police perform 100 random intercepts a day and have stricter border control measures in place.

The woman was tested on Tuesday before returning a positive result on Wednesday, but may have been infectious from the day she left Melbourne and as she stopped off at a string of venues while road-tripping across NSW and Queensland. 

It’s understood she broke lockdown to visit her family in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast.

She had been experiencing symptoms – including loss of her sense of smell – from June 3 but only sought a test on June 8. 

In an extraordinary twist, the pair were only detected when the couple came forward for testing because the husband needed negative results for work purposes. 

There are reports the woman lied on her declaration form when entering Queensland.

The couple crossed the NSW/Queensland border at the remote town of Goondiwindi, four hours inland of the Gold Coast where police are much more strict with their patrols

Three states are scrambling to contain a potential Covid outbreak after an infected woman left locked-down Melbourne and drove through NSW to the Sunshine Coast (Mooloolaba pictured)

Three states are scrambling to contain a potential Covid outbreak after an infected woman left locked-down Melbourne and drove through NSW to the Sunshine Coast (Mooloolaba pictured)

Six close contacts of the woman have been identified so far, including her husband who has to date tested negative.  

The remaining five close contacts are quarantining at a house together on the Sunshine Coast until their results come back. 

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young fears the woman’s partner could become infected, given how much time the pair spent in the car together. 

Both are now at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital. 

Dr Young has said it is possible the woman was infectious from the day she left Melbourne. 

‘She could well have been infectious while travelling through New South Wales and I have been working with my colleague to determine that,’ she said on Wednesday. 

Authorities are working to track down close contacts and investigate whether she and her partner broke three states’ COVID rules.

The positive woman was at Bunnings in Caloundra, QLD between 12.10pm - 12.45pm on June 7

The positive woman was at Bunnings in Caloundra, QLD between 12.10pm – 12.45pm on June 7

The woman visited Goondiwindi McDonalds on June 5 between 7.35am - 7.50am

The woman visited Goondiwindi McDonalds on June 5 between 7.35am – 7.50am

Infected woman’s timeline: 

June 1: 

Left Melbourne and drove across the border to regional New South Wales

10.30-11am: Gillenbah Caltex

6-10pm: Vandenberg Hotel, Forbes

June 2: 

7-10am: Brew Coffee Bar, Forbes

11.30am-2.30pm: Church Street Cafe, Forbes

6-10pm: Reading Cinemas, Dubbo 

June 3:

Midnight-10am: Homestead Hotel

1.45pm: Gwydir Motel, Moree – stayed at accommodation from June 3 to June 5 

June 4:

7-9.30am: Cafe Omega

11.50-2pm: Cafe Omega

4.30-11pm: Amaroo Tavern 

June 5:

Arrived at Goondiwindi border and crossed into Queensland

7.35 – 7.50am: Goondiwindi McDonalds

11 – 11.15am: Toowoomba Caltex

June 6:

2.45 – 3pm: Sunny’s in Moffat Beach

3.30 – 4.30pm: Coffee Cat in Kings Beach 

June 7:

10.45 – 11.30am: Stockland Caloundra Shopping Centre – Coffee Club and Kmart stores

12.10 – 12.45pm: Bunnings in Caloundra

1 – 2pm: Kawana Shoppingworld

June 8:

3.50pm – 4pm: Baringa IGA in Caloundra 

Victorians were forbidden from travelling more than five kilometres from home at the time the woman began her trip on June 1.

NSW did not shut its border with Victoria, but any travellers from the state were supposed to abide by the lockdown rules even in NSW.

Queensland required all Victorian arrivals to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine.

Instead, the woman visited numerous venues in Queensland and NSW.

She stopped at a service station in Gillenbah and Dubbo on her way through NSW, but also visited several cafes in Forbes and Moree and caught a movie at the Reading Cinemas at Dubbo.

Eleven venues in the four towns have been identified by NSW Health as potential exposure sites.

Anyone who attended venues must immediately get tested and isolate.

NSW Health is urging anyone who has been in any of the affected towns to monitor for symptoms and get tested.

Pop-up testing clinics will be set up and opening hours extended to support the increase in testing.      

The couple had visited the Kawana Shoppingworld in Queensland between 1pm-2pm on June 7

The couple had visited the Kawana Shoppingworld in Queensland between 1pm-2pm on June 7

The pair were only detected when the couple came forward for testing because the man needed negative results for work purposes - with health authorities admitting it was down to luck that the case was caught (pictured Melbourne this week)

The pair were only detected when the couple came forward for testing because the man needed negative results for work purposes – with health authorities admitting it was down to luck that the case was caught (pictured Melbourne this week)

Queensland’s list of exposure sites include a McDonald’s restaurant in Goondiwindi, where they crossed the border from NSW, and sites on the Sunshine Coast, including at Moffat Beach, Kings Beach, Buddina, Baringa and Caloundra.

The couple also travelled through Toowoomba, west of Brisbane. The list of exposure sites is on the Queensland Health website and will inevitably grow. 

Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said Queensland Police will be investigating why the couple entered into the sunshine state.  

‘We’ve got a couple that have come from Victoria, when Victoria’s in lockdown, into Queensland,’ he said.

‘We’ll examine all those issues around passes – whether they were appropriate and what has happened – it is too early to say.

‘It’s really important for us to remind the whole community that we cannot possibly check every single person moving around the country.’   

VENUES ON ALERT 

NEW SOUTH WALES 

Gillenbah, Caltex Narrandera on Tuesday, June 1 from 10.30am – 11.00am 

Forbes, Vandenberg Hotel on Tuesday, June 1 from 6.00pm – 10.00pm  

Forbes, Brew Coffee Bar on Wednesday, June 2 from 7.00am – 10.00am 

Dubbo, CSC – Church Street Cafe on Wednesday, June 2 from 11.30am – 2.30pm  

Dubbo, Reading Cinemas Dubbo on Wednesday, June 2 from 6.00pm – 10.00pm  

Dubbo, Homestead Motel on Wednesday, June 2 at 12.00pm – Thursday,  June 3 at 10.00am  

Moree, Gwydir Carpark/Motel & Thermal Pools on Thursday, June 3 at 1.45pm – all day Friday, June 4 to Saturday, June 5 at 7.30am  

Moree, Cafe Omega on Thursday, June 3 from 1.30pm – 4.30pm, Friday, June 4 from 7.00am – 9.30am and Friday, June 4 from 11.50am – 2.00pm  

Moree, Amaroo Tavern on Friday, June 4 from 4.30pm – 11.00pm     

Dubbo, Shell Petrol Station on Wednesday June 2 from 10.30am – 11.30am

Moree, Woolworths Moree on Thursday June 3 from 3.30pm – 4.30pm 

QUEENSLAND

 

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