Health chief granted emergency powers


AUTHORITIES have been granted extraordinary new powers to forcibly detain and treat suspected coronavirus victims as the number of Queenslanders being tested for the deadly virus yesterday numbered in the dozens.

People who defy the specific orders of authorities risk fines and jail time under the Public Health Emergency Order approved by Health Minister Steven Miles.

Under the sweeping powers, Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young can issue written orders to a person or group to remain at a particular location for as long as the emergency order is in place.

The order also allows authorities to prevent people from going to certain locations and use reasonable force to compel an individual when a direction is not being followed.

The measures have been in place in Queensland law since 2005 but have only been enforced once in 2009 to order a cruise ship suspected of carrying swine flu sufferers to return to Brisbane rather than dock at Port Douglas.

The decision to hand authorities the power came as senior ministers cancelled their attendance at a Labor caucus retreat at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat last night to manage the evolving public health matter.

The Premier, Health Minister, Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, State Development Minister Cameron Dick and Tourism Minister Kate Jones all remained in Brisbane.



The Chinese national women's soccer team have already been voluntarily quarantined in an inner-city Brisbane hotel after arriving in Brisbane on Wednesday on a flight from Shanghai.

Dr Young yesterday said she had never invoked the powers to force a person to remain in quarantine during a health emergency.

"I've always just been able to say: 'Please would you do this?'" she said.

"Queenslanders are very responsible.

"Similarly, these Chinese athletes have been extremely co-operative and the Chinese consulate could not have been more helpful."

Dr Young said the team would be released from quarantine on February 5, marking 14 days since they had been in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Government yesterday also approved a new regulation that makes coronavirus a notifiable condition, meaning that Queenland Health will need to be notified of all cases by hospitals and doctors.



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