Two teenage girls have been arrested at a shopping centre for allegedly skipping quarantine after they crossed the Queensland border from New South Wales.
The teens, aged 15 and 16, were detained at Noosa Civic on the Sunshine Coast on Monday before being whisked away for coronavirus testing.
Neither of the girls are displaying any COVID symptoms, but police have spent the last 24 hours searching for them after learning they had travelled to hotspots within Sydney before arriving in the Sunshine State via train last Friday.
Officers alleged the teens had been in Sydney prior to entering Queensland ahead of Saturday’s border closure.
State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced she would close the border to all of New South Wales in an attempt to stem the spread of the deadly respiratory infection.
One of the teens is a returning Sunshine Coast resident who would have been ordered to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine – at her own expense – had she been truthful on her declaration.
The other girl is believed to be a New South Wales resident, and would have been denied entry to Queensland if officers knew she had been in coronavirus-riddled Sydney.
Superintendent Craig Hawkins on Monday said the next course of action for officers was ‘difficult’.
While the logical step would be to place the girls in mandatory hotel quarantine, their age is proving challenging.
‘Because they are minors there are other layers of work we need to do about supervision and guardianship and parental responsibilities that need to be considered,’ he said.
‘I am not talking about prosecution, I am talking about in order to quarantine.
‘Obviously we can’t put a child in quarantine on their own, so the supervision aspect has to be considered.’
The girls’ guardians have been contacted and are aware of the matter.
Supt Hawkins confirmed police caught the two girls at the shopping centre on Monday after learning they had not been entirely truthful on their border declaration passes.
‘These two ladies arrived in Queensland last week – prior to the border closures,’ he said.
‘However they had come from a hotspot down in NSW.’
Supt Hawkins said the girls arrived into Brisbane by train and had lied about where they had been.
‘They weren’t completely honest with where they had been but later on we discovered they had come from a hotspot,’ he said.
The teens will likely be charged under the Youth Justice Act.
While they were taken into custody in the early afternoon, police could not confirm whether they were still detained by afternoon.
It is understood they were taken to complete a COVID-19 test, but Supt Hawkins would not confirm whether those results would be available.
Queensland Health will be responsible for distributing any further information about the teens’ health status.
Multiple shops at Noosa Civic have been closed for deep cleaning as a precaution, sparking community alarm on local neighbourhood Facebook pages.
A Noosa Civic spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia the shopping centre remains open and operating as normal.
‘Stockwell and Noosa Civic centre management are aware of a police incident at the centre today. The centre management team is cooperating with Police and their directions,’ she added.
Superintendent Hawkins stressed that the girls aren’t displaying any symptoms and that the local community should not be alarmed.
‘Certainly there is no need to panic in regards to an outbreak of COVID-19 on the Sunshine Coast,’ he said.
‘I stress, there is no information to suggest they are carriers of the disease.
‘However, in the interests of safety and because they have come from a hotspot, we were keen to ensure they had undertaken the right testing to ensure that Queensland doesn’t find itself in a situation where it might be contaminated.
Shoppers who visited the tourist hotspot on Monday said they were confronted by scenes of two young girls sitting on the floor by multiple police cars.
Police provided the girls with masks, and some of the shops in the centre were closed immediately.
Cotton On and City Beach were among the stores which closed following the arrests.
Store manager Eva Fowler told Sunshine Coast Daily she was aware the teens were in her store.
Team members had already flagged the girls to Ms Fowler because they thought they were ‘acting suspiciously’.
Neither of the teens purchased anything from the store, but they did touch several items of clothes. The store was closed for a clean after staff learned of the arrests.
Queensland recorded just one new case of COVID-19 on Monday with no community transmissions for eight consecutive days.
Health officials have been on high alert for an outbreak linked to Olivia Winnie Muranga and Diana Lasu, who spent a week moving around the community after returning from Melbourne before testing positive to the virus.
The teens and another friend were each fined $4000 over their irresponsible actions.
‘Today was the very important day,’ Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said, referring to the end of the two-week period since police placed the women in isolation.
Communities on Queensland’s southern border have been put on notice that exemptions allowing them to cross over will end if coronavirus spreads north from NSW.
The warning comes two days after the Queensland closed its border with NSW and authorities on Monday relaxed restrictions blocking visitors from aged care homes.
‘The border is difficult,’ the state’s chief health officer Jeannette Young told reporters.
Dr Young said it was likely COVID-19 would spread through NSW north to the border communities and could cross over into Queensland.