SA coronavirus lockdown forces cancer patient to cut short bucket list holiday in tropical Queensland
A South Australian woman and her terminally ill mother have been forced to abandon their bucket list holiday in Far North Queensland after the latest coronavirus outbreak in Adelaide.
Bo Duncan and her mother Deb Duncan, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, arrived in Cairns on Sunday with the aim of going snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.
But by Monday morning, South Australian health authorities had confirmed significant community transmission of COVID-19.
On Monday night — only a day after arriving in Cairns — the Duncans received a text from Queensland Health instructing them to get a COVID-19 test and to quarantine for 14 days.
“Straight away we were in the mode of trying to get home, but how are you supposed to get home if you’re supposed to be in quarantine for two weeks?” Ms Duncan said.
Deb Duncan was desperate to get home before Monday, when she is due to receive the next dose of a drug as part of a clinical trial to treat her cancer.
Bo Duncan said she spent hours on the phone, trying to reach Queensland Health for advice on what to do.
“Mum got a note from her oncologist saying that she had to be returned [home] immediately but we couldn’t get hold of anyone to find out what was going on,” Bo Duncan said.
Both women were tested for coronavirus on Tuesday and returned negative results, but the clinician who took the test told them to return to their hotel and quarantine.
Great Barrier Reef trip will have to wait
The Duncans were in the midst of booking their long-awaited bucket list trip to the Great Barrier Reef when the news about SA started flooding in and their uncertain situation began to unfold.
“Dad and my sister Storm were supposed to come to Cairns [on Wednesday] while mum and me just had a bit of girl time before,” Deb Duncan said.
“The Great Barrier Reef didn’t get to happen this time but hopefully we’ll get back — we’ll just have to see how it goes with mum’s clinical trial and that sort of thing.
“She did The Ghan earlier this year, we’ve been to Europe, we went to Western Australia last year, so she’s slowly getting through it, so it’s a bit sad that this one didn’t get to be achieved.”
Cancer drug trial awaits
Deb Duncan received the first dose of the cancer drug last week, and her oncologist told her she was able to travel.
“She had a week off between doses so they said she was welcome to come [to Cairns],” Bo Duncan said.
However, this week her doctor told her that it would be detrimental to her health if she did not return home in time for her second dose of the experimental drug.
By Wednesday, the Duncans had given up getting in touch with Queensland Health and they booked a flight to Adelaide, connecting through Brisbane.
When asked for the correct protocol for interstate travellers from hotspots, Queensland Health directed the ABC to its website.
It states any South Australians who entered Queensland from a hotspot before 11:59pm AEST on November 16 must be tested and quarantine for 14 days from the date of leaving the hotspot.
However, the website later states people from designated hotspots are allowed to leave Queensland before their quarantine period has finished.
“If you have come from an interstate hotspot and you decide you no longer want to remain in Queensland after you have started quarantine, you can leave before your 14 days are finished,” the website said.
“You should leave Queensland by the most direct route possible and without stopping or coming into contact with the community.”
The Duncans have paid $4,000 for their flights home — an unexpected cost at the end of a disappointing holiday.
“We had to — if it was any other circumstance we would have stayed here, but mum needs her medication, she needs her treatment,” Bo Duncan said.
She said she was frustrated by the lack of information about their specific circumstances.
A spokesperson for Queensland Health said it was a “rapidly evolving situation” and advice would change as necessary.
“The situation in Adelaide is concerning and the decision to close the border is an appropriate response given the significant health risk to Queenslanders,” the spokesperson said.
“We understand that this has thrown travel plans into chaos for many.
“We worked to get advice to the public as quickly as possible with the aim of keeping Queenslanders safe.”
The spokesperson said up-to-date information was available on the Queensland Health website.