Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has warned foreign diplomats against self-exempting themselves from quarantine when entering Australia.
Referring to the 40-year-old diplomat who tested positive for COVID-19 in Canberra on Saturday after recently returning from overseas and driving straight to his home in the ACT, Mr Hunt said the rules applied to everyone.
”If they have feet on Australian soil they will be expected to adopt Australian rules,” he said.
If there were breaches, Mr Hunt said Australian authorities would take it up with the diplomat’s home country ”very strongly”.
Asked why the diplomat did not go into immediate quarantine in a Sydney hotel, ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said there were exceptions for diplomats although she did not know whether he had an exemption from isolating after arriving.
”He drove back to Canberra in a private car and no one was exposed during that trip,” she said.
She would not say whether he was Australian or not, or which country he had recently been in, other than to say it was somewhere with current cases of COVID-19.
The man was now in quarantine at home, along with his family who had also been exposed to the virus.
”The family will need to stay in quarantine until we allow them to leave,” Dr Coleman said.
She was confident that there has been no risk to the broader ACT community.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said today (9 June) that diplomatic immunity was immunity from certain things but not COVID-19.
He said the diplomat did follow the very clear health advice around self-isolation and quarantining and that made this outcome less worse than it could have been, ”but it does serve as a reminder that it only takes one person to start a new chain of infection”.
“In relation to DFAT, well, they clearly have to observe the international protocols around diplomats. The same rules apply to diplomats in different countries around the world.”
The case is the ACT’s first since the end of May and is the only known active case in the ACT – all other COVID-19 patients have recovered and there are no COVID-19 patients in Canberra hospitals. It brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in the ACT to 108. Three deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded. A total of 20,379 negative tests have been carried out in the ACT.
Dr Coleman added that the case is also a demonstration of how important it is for the ACT to maintain a high level of testing in the community as restrictions begin to ease and people begin moving more freely.
She expected more case to be diagnosed as restrictions were lifted and the movement of people increased.
”The ACT will continue to have a strong and rapid public health response to any new cases,” Dr Coleman said.
A planeload of Australians arrived in Canberra from Nepal today as part of the ongoing repatriation of citizens from around the world. They will need to go into immediate quarantine for 14 days.