Queensland defends anomaly that means Covid-free travellers must quarantine longer than infected locals

Queensland Health has defended an anomaly in the state’s Covid rules which forces Covid-negative international travellers into a longer quarantine than people infected with the virus in the community.

The state updated its public health directive for Covid-positive cases on Monday, 3 January. The rules state that anyone in Queensland informed of a Covid diagnosis must immediately isolate for seven days.

The rules for international arrivals remain unchanged since 1 January. They require all arrivals to quarantine for 14 days. Returning Australian citizens and their family members can quarantine at home if they are fully vaccinated and return a negative PCR test.

The human rights lawyer Melanie Hyde has been living overseas throughout the pandemic and returned – with her partner and two-year-old daughter – to Queensland to see family. They are in home quarantine.

Hyde said she contacted Queensland Health about the discrepancy, but they could not explain why international travellers required longer isolation, even when they were vaccinated and had returned negative tests. She intends to lodge a complaint with the state’s human rights commission.

“I have an elderly grandmother, I have friends and family I haven’t seen for two years,” Hyde said.

“I’m seeing this inconsistency and an unwillingness to do anything about it.

“What’s most disappointing to me … is this apathy and lack of concern about what’s happening. The government has an obligation to make sure (Covid restrictions) have the least restrictive impact on people’s rights.”

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Queensland Health told Guardian Australia the state continues “to take a cautious approach as we reach vaccination milestones and ease restrictions”.

“The risks associated with overseas travellers have not changed,” a spokesperson said.

“While both interstate and overseas hotspots are a concern, the risk profile for overseas hotspots is greater due to several factors, including quality of vaccinations, different variants circulating overseas, and uncertainty in contact tracing processes used in other countries.

“That’s why we may impose tighter restrictions than what has been set nationally.”

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