Tourist’s pain: ‘It’s a long way to fly not to see the reef’
IMAGINE flying into Cairns with dreams of visiting the Great Barrier Reef, and spending most of your two-week holiday in forced quarantine.
That's what happened to many South Australians who flew into the region only to be caught up by the Queensland's government's response to a COVID-19 outbreak last month.
Among them was my sister Debra Furler, who had booked the $2000 trip with a friend, instead of their usual holiday to Bali.
On November 16, South Australian health authorities declared they were facing a "dangerous situation" after reporting 18 coronavirus cases. At the time, up to 13 infections were linked to a hotel quarantine worker in Adelaide who spread the virus to a family in the local community, officials said.
By that stage, my sister was already in Cairns and soon found out the news back home would completely derail her holiday plans.
The closest she got to 'seeing the reef' was a visit to the Cairns Aquarium before the order to isolate came in.
In some ways, she and her friend were lucky they had a lovely apartment with a large balcony at Jack and Newell Apartment.
But not being able to see the Great Barrier Reef was a big blow. "(It's a) long way to go from Adelaide and not get to see the reef,'' she said.
"Luckily the tour company we booked with were very good and gave us a refund even without 24 hours' notice as was in their policy.
"We did get out on the last day before we flew home and went on the Kurang Train trip to the Daintree, great day trip in the Gold Class Carriage."
Still, she thought the situation was pretty unfair to visitors from South Australia who had not even been near the area where the COVID-19 outbreak occurred.
"We complied with what the government told us to do, had the COVID test, it came back negative but we still had to self-isolate.
She said while Cairns was a beautiful place, and she was keen to support local tourism, it was more expensive than her normal annual Bali pilgrimage.
"We felt sorry for their economy (Cairns) as it was like a ghost town."
Queensland is expected to open its border to visitors from South Australia again at 1am on Saturday after opening to NSW and Victoria last week.
However, if you have been in a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days, or overseas and didn't fly into Queensland when you arrived in Australia, you are required to submit a Queensland Border Declaration Pass. However, there are some exemptions.
"If you have been in a hotspot within the last 14 days, you are no longer able to quarantine in Queensland and will be turned away at our border - unless you are exempt under the definitions within the Border Direction," according to the state government.
Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young warned the border reopening with South Australia could change and was subject to what happens in the Parafield outbreak in Adelaide over the next few days.
"If there are no additional cases between now and Saturday morning that are unable to be linked to that outbreak, then Queensland will no longer require quarantine of anyone travelling from those 20 local government authority areas," she said.
"If there are any unlinked cases, and again we saw a risk from the cluster, then yes that could change."
December 1 marked the 250th day since Queensland's borders were fully open, with police no longer required at the border from 1am.
Originally published as Tourist's pain: 'It's a long way to fly not to see the reef'