The defiant mother of a young woman who has sparked coronavirus panic in Queensland has sensationally claimed her daughter never travelled to Melbourne.
Diana Lasu, 21, and Olivia Winnie Muranga, 19, allegedly lied on their border declarations about where they had been when they arrived in Brisbane from Melbourne via Sydney on July 21.
Days later they felt sick but carried on working, socialising and visiting restaurants and cocktail bars while waiting for their test results – which came back positive.
The pair, along with another unidentified 21-year-old woman, have been charged with one count each of providing false or misleading documents and fraud over their alleged lies to authorities when they arrived in Brisbane.
But Ms Lasu’s mother, who is in hotel quarantine as a close contact, emphatically denied her daughter had done anything wrong.
‘She didn’t go to Melbourne, she went to Sydney,’ she told Nine News on Thursday.
‘I don’t have any apologies for anyone – believe me.’
She instead pointed the finger at her daughter’s friend, who she said had been to Melbourne.
‘If you know, yourself, you have the virus – why didn’t you directly go to the doctor?’ she said, referring to Muranga.
Lasu and Muranga remain in Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital under police guard, partly for their own protection.
Meanwhile, footage has emerged showing Muranga casually ordering a drink at the Cowch Dessert Cocktail Bar on Brisbane’s Southbank with a friend in the hours after she was tested for the virus on Monday.
The venue is one of 11 visited by the three women while infectious.
‘Two cocktails hardly seems worth all this pain,’ Arif Mendes, who owns a restaurant Muranga visited, told A Current Affair.
‘People say we’re in this together… well clearly not for some people, that’s disappointing.’
Before that, she had allegedly gone to work for two days at Parklands Christian College in Park Ridge, south of the city before calling in sick.
She went to the doctor on Saturday and was told to get tested immediately, but she allegedly waited until Monday to do so.
As long lines of worried people waited on Thursday to get tested at a pop-up clinic set up at the college, Ms Muranga’s brother admitted her alleged actions were a ‘mistake’, but claimed she had been unfairly targeted because of her race.
He said his sister waited several days in between experiencing symptoms and getting sick.
‘Some days she couldn’t even breathe out of her airways and s**t,’ he told the program via telephone.
When told dozens of people could now be infected because of her alleged actions, the brother said it ‘was not something we sat down and thought about’.
He then claimed the criticism his sister was receiving had been intensified because of the colour of her skin.
‘It’s a f***ing mistake,’ he said. ‘I reckon if someone else did this that wasn’t of colour, you’ll be protecting them – you wouldn’t be doing all of this s**t.’
Queensland Police on Thursday afternoon said three women had been charged for allegedly providing false information on their border declarations.
A 19-year-old Heritage Park woman, a 21-year-old Acacia Ridge woman and a 21-year-old Algester woman were all charged with one count each of providing false or misleading documents and fraud.
The women could be fined $13,345 or sent to jail for a maximum of five years.
Police said the trio are now cooperating with officers and Queensland Health officials.
The women will appear at Brisbane Magistrates Court on September 28.
‘There is no further information available at this time in relation to the ongoing criminal investigation,’ a statement read.
Police previously alleged the women were lying to investigators about their movements.
‘What we have seen in these instances are [alleged] deliberate acts of deception,’ Queensland Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said.
‘The way our borders operate cannot prevent that. It is incredibly important that everyone who comes into Queensland, is accurate in terms of the declaration. In this instance, it is not a matter of identity, there is no false identity.
‘It is about not declaring where people have been.’
Police investigators and health authorities will analyse the women’s mobile phone data to track their movements.
A police source has meanwhile alleged the teenagers threw a party for about 20 people at their accommodation in Melbourne earlier this month, the Brisbane Times reported.
Victoria Police issued infringement notices to all in attendance at the party after being called to reports of a ‘disturbance’.
Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said police were confident everyone who had been to the Melbourne party had now been identified.
Police on Thursday revealed 40 people have been caught lying to authorities while crossing the Queensland border.
‘From the beginning of this, we have issued well over 1,100 infringement notices and 40 people have made false declarations at our borders,’ Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said.
Ms Carroll said she was ‘very disappointed’ with the alleged behaviour of Muranga and Lasu, and their unidentified travel buddy.
She said the three women have been served court notices.
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said the pair would face court.
It was earlier reported that one of the women cooperated with Queensland authorities in contact tracing since she arrived back in the state.
The second woman had allegedly refused to share details of her travels over the course of the last week.
‘I’m very worried about the second individual who has not been cooperative and has not shared where she’s been, so we haven’t been able to contact those venues,’ Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young said.
Queensland Police on Thursday said the three women who have been charged are now cooperating with QPS and Queensland Health officials.
Legal firm Creevey Russell Lawyers Crime and Misconduct division lawyer Craig van der Hoven said anyone who knowingly transmits COVID-19 without taking precautions could face up to two years behind bars.
Queensland on Thursday recorded three new coronavirus cases, including two linked to a previously identified Sydney cluster.
The pair had dined at the coronavirus-stricken Apollo restaurant and tested positive to the deadly respiratory infection overnight.
They have been praised for choosing to self isolate at home upon returning to Queensland, limiting their risk of contributing to community transmission.
‘We’ve seen that today, its sensible to close the border to anyone from greater Sydney,’ Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young agreed.
The third case was a man in his 20s who returned from the United States.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said this is ‘the best scenario we could have hoped for’.
The three new cases are unrelated to Muranga and Lasu.
Muranga allegedly also visited a Thai restaurant in Springfield on Sunday and a Southbank cocktail bar on Monday.
Authorities have described the border crossing as the ‘perfect storm’. They are examining whether the women visited the Free Pentecostal Church of Australia in Springfield.
All aged care homes in Brisbane’s Metro South region have been ordered to lock down to stop a potential spread as a result of the women’s actions.
Muranga is a cleaner at Parklands Christian College in Park Ridge.
The school’s principal Gary Cully confirmed a coronavirus-infected cleaner worked for three days last week.
‘The staff member was on site last week and then rang in sick and then that’s when the trace program started,’ Mr Cully told The Courier Mail.
‘As far as I’m aware they were not symptomatic while they were onsite and then called in sick the following day and then the next week were tested.’
Shopping centres, restaurants, a school, and a church they visited will shut while authorities scramble to conduct contact tracing.
The incident prompted Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to announce all Sydneysiders will be banned from entering the state from Saturday.
‘There will be a thorough police investigation here but now we have to act as a community and in the areas where the chief health officer says need to be closed, will be closed and I urge people in those areas when that list goes out later on today to please ensure that if you are feeling sick you must go and get tested,’ she said.
Queensland residents returning will have to isolate in a hotel for 14 days at their own expense.
One of the women attended the Orion Springfield Central in Ipswich, south-west of Brisbane, on Sunday where she dined at the Peak Thai restaurant about 6.30pm.