‘Selfish’ Covid couple who drove from Melbourne to Queensland while infected face punishment in three states – but could escape with a slap on the wrist like ‘border jumpers’ who skipped quarantine to go to an Airbnb party
- Victorian couple escaped lockdown and road-tripped to QLD while infectious
- They have both since been diagnosed with Covid-19 while on Sunshine Coast
- Health authorities say the pair did not have an exemption to leave Victoria
- They may face same punishment as three women who lied on their border forms
- Diana Lasu, Olivia Winnie Muranga and Haja Timbo received community service
- The friends lied about having been in Melbourne when entering Brisbane
A Covid-infected couple who drove from locked-down Melbourne to Queensland through regional NSW could be prosecuted in all three states for the ‘selfish’ trip, but could escape with a slap on the wrist like previous offenders.
The pair escaped Victoria’s ‘circuit breaker’ Covid lockdown on June 1 and went on a 1,900km road trip through regional communities in NSW before arriving in Queensland on June 5.
Health authorities believe the pair were likely infected at least two weeks ago, as tests they had on June 9 showed their viral loads were waning.
A Covid-infected couple who fled Melbourne’s lockdown (pictured) to road trip across three states could face huge fines and even jail time
Health authorities in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland are scrambling to track down hundreds of people who may have been exposed to the virus during their interstate trip
The couple had no exemption to leave Victoria and travel to Queensland, and police are now investigating whether they lied on border exemption passes.
They could face fines of more than $13,000 and six months in jail if they’re found to have failed to comply with border directions in Queensland.
The couple could also face punishment in Victoria and NSW, like the three young women who sparked fears of a Covid outbreak after lying on their border declaration forms last year.
The women lied so they could escape hotel quarantine after flying from Queensland to Melbourne to go to a party in an Airbnb apartment in July last year.
Diana Lasu, 21, Olivia Winnie Muranga, 20, and Haja Umu Timbo, 21, were originally charged with one count of making false or misleading documents and one of fraud.
But they pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of failing to comply with a public health direction.
Muranga and Lasu tested positive to COVID-19 after the group returned to Queensland from attending the party in Melbourne while the city was in lockdown.
Olivia Winnie Muranga, 20, (pictured, centre) was accused of lying on her border declarations to avoid quarantine in Queensland last July. She later tested positive for Covid
Haja Umu Timbo (left) and Diana Lasu (right) were sentenced to community service after pleading guilty to failing to comply with a public health direction
Muranga was sentenced to 40 hours of community service in Queensland while Lasu and Timbo were both given 80 hours of community service to complete.
They also received fines in Victoria for failing to comply with gathering restrictions.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said police will investigate how the couple at the centre of Australia’s latest Covid scare were able to enter the Sunshine State.
Victoria had been declared a hotspot at the time the couple entered Queensland, meaning Victorians were unable to legally enter without an exemption.
Those granted entry would then have had to undergo 14 days in hotel quarantine.
Health authorities have identified 17 close contacts of the couple with three so far testing negative.
Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino said the couple wouldn’t have been breaking lockdown restrictions if they were permanently relocating to the Sunshine State.
‘Victoria was not able to speak to the couple yesterday for a case interview but we will do so today, and it is important to note that if they were relocating it is not a breach of directions here in Victoria but we just don’t know,’ Mr Merlino said.
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)
NEW NSW VENUES ON ALERT
The Bakehouse in Forbes on June 1 from 2.30pm-2.50pm
Browns Sportspower in Forbes on June 1 from 3pm-3.30pm
Best and Less in Dubbo on June 2 from 12.20pm-1pm
Chemist Warehouse in Dubbo on June 2 from 1.45pm-2pm
Coles in Dubbo on June 2 from 4.30pm-5pm
PKs Bakery in Dubbo on June 3 from 7.30am-8.45am
Coles Express in Coonabarabran on June 3 from 11am-12pm
ASSEF’s clothing store in Moree on June 3 from 3pm-3.30pm
Cafe Omega closed on Thursday for a deep clean after a Covid-infected couple attended twice
The pair were only detected when they came forward for testing because the man needed a negative result for his job.
Police are investigating whether the couple crossed the NSW-Queensland border at the remote rural town of Goondiwindi on June 5 in a bid to evade authorities.
The couple likely used that route so they could avoid passing through the Gold Coast – where police perform 100 random intercepts a day with strict border control measures in place.
Goondiwindi Mayor Lawrence Springborg slammed the couple.
‘This act of apparent selfishness has not only inconvenienced our community but put us all at risk and reinforces the need for constant vigilance and compliance with health advice,’ he said.
The infected woman had been experiencing symptoms – including loss of her sense of smell – from June 3 but only sought a test on June 8.
VENUES ON ALERT ACROSS NSW AND QUEENSLAND AS INFECTED WOMAN’S TIMELINE IS REVEALED
Left Melbourne and drove across the border to regional New South Wales
10.30-11am: Gillenbah, Caltex Narrandera
6pm-10pm: Forbes, Vandenberg Hotel
7-10am: Forbes, Brew Coffee Bar
10.30-11.30am: Dubbo, Shell Petrol Station
11.30am-2.30pm: Dubbo, Church Street Cafe
6-10pm: Dubbo, Reading Cinemas
Midnight-10am: Dubbo, Homestead Motel
1.30-4.30pm: Moree, Cafe Omega
From 1.45pm onwards: Moree, Gwydir Carpark/Motel & Thermal Pools
3.30-4.30pm: Moree, Woolworths
All day until 7.30am June 5 : Moree, Gwydir Carpark/Motel & Thermal Pools
7-9.30am: Moree, Cafe Omega
11.50-2pm: Moree, Cafe Omega
4.30-11pm: Moree, Amaroo Tavern
Arrived at Goondiwindi border and crossed into Queensland
7.35-7.50am: Goondiwindi, McDonalds
11-11.15am: Toowoomba, Caltex
Travelled to Sunshine Coast
2.45-3pm: Moffat Beach, Sunny’s
3.30 – 4.30pm: Coffee Cat in Kings Beach
10.45-11.30am: Stockland Caloundra Shopping Centre – Coffee Club and Kmart stores
12.10 – 12.45pm: Caloundra, Bunnings
1-2pm: Buddina, Kawana Shoppingworld
3.50-4pm: Caloundra, Baringa IGA