Quarantined travellers to be allowed out of hotels for ‘WELLNESS WALKS’ after human rights watchdog whinge – despite admitting there ‘are obvious health risks’ after Victoria’s isolation debacle
- Human Rights chief called for those quarantining to get ‘wellness walks’
- Queensland’s Scott McDougall said travellers should have fresh air and exercise
- He argues that prisoners are allowed out so quarantine travellers should be too
- McDougall also warned against police about handing out social distancing fines
Returning travellers in Queensland will now be able to enjoy ‘wellness walks’ after a human rights chief appealed for those isolating to be allowed fresh air for their mental health.
The controversial move is despite Victoria’s horror outbreak, with 607 people in hospital, beginning after COVID-19 leaked out of a bungled hotel quarantine system.
Queensland Health has given the green light for those quarantining to enjoy outdoor breaks in the hotels’ grounds.
The move was sparked by Queensland’s human rights commissioner Scott McDougall, who demanded the walks despite the ‘obvious health risks’ to the community.
He says those in mandatory 14-day isolation from overseas or Australian coronavirus hot spots should be given at least the same amount of fresh air and exercise as prisoners.
Mr McDougall lobbied for those in mandatory 14-day isolation to be given ‘wellness walks’ (pictured, Australians returning to Brisbane from South America)
Queensland Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall has demanded quarantine travellers get ‘wellness walks’, despite the ‘obvious health risks’ to the community
Mr McDougall’s calls come as Victoria is in the midst of a state-wide lockdown following a surge of cases linked to their bungled hotel quarantine program, which enabled the virus to spread.
‘It’s important that individuals are able to have access to fresh air and breaks to maintain proper standards of treatment, because they are effectively being deprived of their liberty,’ Mr McDougall told The Courier-Mail.
‘We recognise there are obvious health risks. Obviously given what happened in Victoria, the breaks need to be managed really carefully.
‘No one is released from their hotel room for a wellness break if they’ve tested positive.’
On Mr McDougall’s request, Queensland Health have now sought out hotels with balconies and windows so quarantine travellers can get some fresh air.
They will also be allowed to exercise during a walk in the hotel grounds.
He has also warned Queensland Police to avoid handing out $1,334 social distancing fines to people that can’t afford to pay the penalty.
The AHRC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar also agrees the fines disproportionately impact the most vulnerable in society.
The calls come as Victoria is in the midst of a lockdown after a surge of cases linked to the quarantine program (pictured, a woman in Melbourne is seen walking in a face mask)
Travellers are seen arriving for the 14-day quarantine at Perth Airport (pictured), with Australia running the mandatory hotel isolation since March
Mr Oscar said inability to pay fines has in the past led to the incarceration of Indigenous people and in the worst cases, has been associated with deaths in custody.
According to a spokesman from Queensland Health, there are some circumstances where quarantine travellers can be let out of their rooms.
However in these cases they must remain in the hotel grounds.
‘Leaving the hotel’s property to take a walk is not considered a valid reason as it poses too great a risk to the general public,’ the spokesman said.
Australia has required returning travellers to quarantine for two weeks since March 28, a program credited in helping the country keep coronavirus numbers low.
But Melbourne’s breakout, which resulted in a city-wide Stage 4 lockdown – including a nighttime curfew – is understood to have begun when leaks appeared in the hotel quarantine system.
An inquiry has been launched into what went wrong in the bungled quarantine system, but this has been delayed by six weeks due to the second wave of infections.
An officer is seen watching on as quarantine travellers are taken to a hotel in Brisbane (pictured)
WHAT MELBOURNE’S STAGE FOUR LOCKDOWN MEANS FOR YOU
State of disaster: Increased police powers to enforce the lockdown. Cautions will no longer be issued, only $1,652 fines or court summons
Curfew: No one allowed outside 8pm to 5am except for work, medical, caregiving – no shopping or exercising
Distance limit: Shopping and exercise can only be done 5km from home
Exercise: All recreational activity is banned and you can only exercise, with one other person, for one hour a day
Partners: You can visit a boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t live with you, even if they live more than 5km away
Shopping: Only one person can go shopping per household per day
Cafes and restaurants stay open for takeaway, as do supermarkets, etc
Schools: All students learning from home from Wednesday unless they are vulnerable or parents are essential workers. Kindy and childcare close on Thursday (same exceptions apply)
Funerals: No change to funeral limits, but only 10 mourners can leave Melbourne to regional Victoria for one
Weddings: Completely banned
Public transport: Slashed after 8pm and cancelled late at night
Community sport: All community sport across Victoria is now banned. Only exercise is allowed within the permitted public gathering limits of two people.