Man’s quarantine escape could trigger ‘major response’

Queensland's Deputy Police Commissioner has labelled a quarantine failure that saw a man flee from mandatory COVID isolation as "not good enough," as he vowed to restore confidence in the Service's ability to mandate hotel quarantine.

The quarantine dodger, a 25-year-old man, was noticed missing from his Toowoomba hotel on Tuesday, while police were alerted early Wednesday.

It was the man's ninth day into his two week quarantine period after he had previously tested negative to coronavirus after visiting a NSW hotspot.

Following an extensive police search operation, the man yesterday afternoon surrendered himself to officers and was placed back into quarantine.

Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said the man would undergo an expedited second test to ensure he was still uninfected and the matter would be investigated.

"We're being very transparent around this, it's not good enough for us that this kind of thing has happened," he said.

"Was it a systemic issue, has someone made an error, has he committed further offences? So they're all subject to the independent review of what we're looking at."

Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled
Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled

The incident came 11 days after the last known case of community transmission, while the state yesterday recorded zero cases.

Mr Gollschewski said he had spoken with police Commissioner Katarina Carroll in relation to the hotel escapee, and the pair were "very concerned about any quarantine failure in Queensland."

This is the first time any of the near 16,000 people placed into mandatory hotel quarantine in Queensland has managed to escape.

"There is an independent investigation being done and a review of what has occurred … to check our systems and make sure we have full confidence that we'll be able to ensure all persons that are in quarantine remain there until they complete that quarantine."

Mr Gollschewski said a "major response" would be required if the Toowoomba man's second test came back positive.

"We will have to do contact tracing and we'll have to really determine what that looks like," he said.

"Not only how long has he been out, where's he been, who has he been in contact with."

The man is already facing criminal charges including for previously attempting to enter Queensland unlawfully. He will appear in the Goondiwindi Magistrates Court in September.

Toowoomba South MP David Janetzki of the LNP said the Palaszczuk Government had "serious questions" to answer following the hotel breach.

"We've seen what can happen in Victoria if quarantine gets away on us, so we need to have full confidence in the system," he said.

"It is alarming that in Toowoomba we've had someone breach quarantine in this way.

That's why the Palaszczuk Government need to make sure the quarantine system is tight and strictly enforced, and there are lots of questions now that must be answered."

Mr Janetzki said the behaviour of the man at the centre of the breach was " very disappointing," while one woman who was staying at the hotel said police manned the premises at all hours of day and night.

"Police were there 24/7 as far as I was aware," the hotel guest, who was not under COVID quarantine, said.

She said police questioned her every time she entered and exited the hotel, and said it was "bad" a man had managed to escape.

Originally published as Man's quarantine escape could trigger 'major response'