Woman fined for sneaking out of quarantine hotel
A woman who was supposed to be in quarantine has been stopped at Sydney airport after she snuck out of her Circular Quay hotel and tried to board an international flight.
It is the second coronavirus security bungle this week, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian blaming Jetstar for allowing 137 passengers from a Melbourne flight to disembark in Sydney without being checked.
NSW Police said the 63-year-old was in quarantine at the Marriott Hotel when she told security staff her job as a flight attendant for United Airlines meant she had a health exemption allowing her to fly to San Francisco.
It is understood she arrived as a passenger, meaning she would not receive any travel exemptions.
"While they were attempting to verify her claims, she left the hotel to travel to Sydney Airport to board an international flight," a police spokesman said.
The woman was stopped by Australian Border Force officers before being taken into police custody and returned to the hotel to complete her mandatory 14-day quarantine period, which began on July 3. She was fined $1000.
In an email to The Daily Telegraph last night the woman said the incident was a "miscommunication" from the "Health Exemption" department. She denied she was fined.
It came as Melburnians were advised to wear masks in public - but revellers in Sydney carried on partying, despite warnings the contagion may already have spread.
A long line of pubgoers standing closely together awaiting entry into a popular Sydney hotel has been described by Health Minister Brad Hazzard as a "horror'' show.
High-profile eastern suburbs pub The Golden Sheaf worked with police after hundreds of party-goers queued at close distance outside on Wednesday night.
A NSW Police spokeswoman confirmed officers visited The Golden Sheaf in Double Bay on Wednesday evening after reports of a large crowd waiting outside.
"Police liaised with the manager before assisting security with restricting the number of people in the line to comply with social distancing guidelines. The remainder were moved on from the area," the spokeswoman said.
It is understood management from the Sheaf called police, concerned about the crowds.
Liquor and Gaming NSW is investigating the incident.
Mr Hazzard said he was horrified by the image.
"My overriding response is just horror that they could leave young people to do what they often do, which is fail to understand the danger they are putting themselves in," he said.
In a statement, Solotel Group CEO Justine Baker said the Golden Sheaf "worked immediately with police to disperse the crowd and ensure social distancing measures were established".
COVID-19 protocols at the venue will now be stepped up. Guests must now have a booking if they are entering post 8pm on a Wednesday, the queue will be limited to a maximum of 20 people and the hotel has employed more security and staff to manage the queues.
"We employ management and security staff to monitor queues constantly,'' she said. "It is the collective responsibility of all staff, guests, operators and authorities to ensure the safety of each other."
But Mr Hazzard said venue managers have a greater responsibility to ensure young people know the risk.
"We know that about 40 per cent of our positive COVID cases are young people … and it is tough to get the message through," he said.
Ms Berejiklian said the state remained on "high alert" over a possible spread of the virus from Victoria. "I want people to know that for the next two to three weeks in particular, all of us have to be on high alert," she said.
The southern state was smashed by an extra 165 cases yesterday as its coronavirus crisis continued to spiral out of control, with people now told to make their own masks.
The public health messaging for the state significantly escalated, with authorities urging people to wear masks if they cannot socially distance when in public.
Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton warned many store-bought masks were not suitable to protect against COVID-19 and urged people to make their own.
He said the state government was working on a public education campaign about how best to do that.
"I think people will need masks but I don't think there should be a rush on buying single-use masks, for example. In fact some masks purchased retail aren't necessarily good for rewashing and reuse over days and days," Professor Sutton said.
"We are working up communication materials that will give a bit of guidance about how to make a basic mask that can be rewashed that Melburnians and further beyond can use in several weeks to come."
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee now recommends all Victorians in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire to wear a mask if unable to socially distance outside.
As of Thursday night, there were 3098 cases in Victoria
Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone said masks were useful on public transport or in crowded locations such as shops and markets.
"This is especially the case in those suburbs where we know community transmission is high," Dr Bartone said.
But he warned masks were not "a silver bullet, particularly when not worn correctly". "Isolation, physical distancing, and regularly washing your hands is more effective at reducing transmission than masks," Dr Bartone said.
"However, the worsening situation in Melbourne hot spots means everybody must be extra vigilant and extra careful to minimise the risk of spread of the virus.
"Mask use is just one additional way that safety precautions against transmission can be achieved."
Australia's deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said there was overwhelming evidence COVID-19 spread through the air.
"We know when people cough and sneeze particles come out of their mouth, and they are full of respiratory virus," he said.
"Those particles vary in size from very, very small particles that can remain suspended in the air, through to particles that drop straight onto the ground, or surfaces or people if they are nearby."
Dr Coatsworth said people who can't social distance should wear a mask.
"If you have to leave your home … it is advisable to be covering your face with a mask," he said.
BUSINESS CRACKDOWN IN ALBURY
Meanwhile, a flying squad of government inspectors will launch a concerted crackdown on businesses in the border town of Albury to ensure they comply with COVID-19 guidelines as the state starts a nail-biting three-week wait to see how severely the virus spreads north from Victoria.
Customer Services Minister Victor Dominello said businesses must consider themselves part of the frontline in stopping the spread.
NSW Health on Thursday confirmed three people in Albury had tested positive to the virus, as NSW recorded another 13 cases, and Victoria announced another 165.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal the government will specifically deploy inspectors from around the state to Albury, amid nervousness over 152,000 border crossing applications lodged by last night.
The inspectors will check the 4600 local businesses are operating safely with social distancing and health measures, with the border zone considered a new battlefront.
Mr Dominello said businesses were struggling, but added they had a critical role in stopping the virus spread.
"We know businesses have been doing it tough, but they must play their part for themselves, their customers and their communities," Mr Dominello said.
"In the battle against COVID-19 they are the second line of defence behind our health workers and first responders whose work has been incredible."
Albury resident Ciara Paramore said the community had adhered to the regulations as lockdowns eased.
"I found it really hard during lockdown, I'm a social person and I had a baby when it was all happening so I was stuck at home with a newborn," she said.
"I think people are genuinely pretty scared about coronavirus and the implications of catching it, they're scared of giving it to their family members and I think they will follow the rules in cafes and restaurants."
Businesses are not forced to register with the government as COVID safe, but it could happen if venues continue to flout the rules.
VICTORIANS EXTEND NSW HOLIDAYS
Victorian tourists are extending their holidays in NSW after their return to school was delayed as health authorities wait on "high alert" to see if the virus has already crossed the border north.
More than 125,000 permits to travel from Victoria have been issued since the closure on Wednesday, with residents in border towns urged to avoid travelling unless absolutely necessary.
But many Victorians already in NSW have opted to delay their return after the start of the new school term was pushed back a week, potentially putting NSW at further risk.
Bega Valley Shire Mayor Sharon Tapscott told The Daily Telegraph there were still "a lot of Victorians" staying on the south coast with many now staying longer after school holidays were extended.
"Many of them have decided they're staying and they will extend their holidays seeing as they're already here," she said.
"We're trying to balance the much needed financial support they bring with the health risk."
Ms Tapscott said people from Melbourne hot spots "weren't supposed to have travelled anyway".
Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive Michael Johnson said many NSW businesses were unsure what to do about Victorians visiting for the school holidays.
"I'm hearing there are still a lot of Victorians in NSW holidaying and the message has been clear from the state government if they're from greater Melbourne they need to now be self isolating in their accommodation," he said.
Victorians make up about 16 per cent of total interstate tourism nights in NSW each year.
Mr Johnson said visitor numbers to the area had dramatically picked up this holiday period after the nationwide lockdowns ended several weeks ago.
Originally published as Woman fined for sneaking out of quarantine hotel