Queensland Decides To Automatically Cancel Covid Travel Exemption Requests Amid Delays | Queensland
Queensland health officials have automatically canceled some long-standing requests for compassionate and medical exemptions to enter the state, including cases where people had waited more than five weeks without a formal response.
The Queensland Health Instruction Exemption Service last week wrote to a number of people seeking to cross the state border, informing them that their cases had taken so long to assess that they would now be “Closed”.
The email, seen by Guardian Australia, informs people that they have seven days to indicate whether the exemption is still necessary.
Health officials have been inundated with requests for border exemptions – 5,000 of which were processed last month. Relatively few of them have been granted entry, and only under very limited circumstances.
The closed border regime is popular in Queensland. But as the state takes its first steps toward reopening, strict rule enforcement continues to create cases where tough bureaucracy trumps compassion.
This week, Queensland passed the milestone of 70% of the population having received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. In the process, the State will now authorize the entry of people from areas affected by the Covid. People must arrive by plane, provide proof of a negative test and self-quarantine in a residence for 14 days.
But authorities admit that with so many conditions, the arrangement is unlikely to be accepted by the thousands of people trying to enter the state.
“I think a lot of people will wait,” Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Monday.
Palaszczuk said Queensland was on track to meet its 80% double-dose vaccination target – and full opening of state borders to vaccinated travelers – a week ahead of the December 17 target.
With border changes imminent, the exemptions unit wrote to applicants apologizing for the long delays.
People were first informed that they would receive a response within three business days. Guardian Australia is aware of applicants who have been waiting for more than five weeks without a response.
âWe apologize for the delay in contacting you,â the email read.
âAs it has been a while since you filed your application, could you please indicate if you still require this exemption.
âIf we don’t hear from you within the next seven days, we’ll assume your request is no longer needed and close this request on your behalf. “
In a statement, Queensland Health said its exemptions team was reaching out to applicants to let them know they may now be eligible for a home quarantine.
“This does not mean that they automatically cancel applications,” the statement said.
“In fact, they handle each exemption request on a case-by-case basis and call or email the requester to let them know that they may be able to bypass the exemption process and return to Queensland sooner.”
Candidates who spoke to Guardian Australia said they were not called until they received the email.
Health said its exemptions team allowed 700 people to visit a dying relative between August and mid-November 2021.
âQueensland Health’s exemptions team works incredibly hard, seven days a week, processing hundreds of requests every day, with priority always given to urgent medical and humanitarian exemptions.
âToday alone, they have resolved around 250 claims, many of which were no longer valid because the claimant was eligible for home quarantine.
“We are doing everything possible to process exemption requests as quickly as possible.”