Dozens of people are yet to pay for their mandatory coronavirus hotel quarantine in Queensland
Dozens of people forced into hotel quarantine as part of the Queensland Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic have not paid their bills since the mandatory payment rule came into effect in July.
The number could soon increase, with Queensland preparing to accept several hundred more overseas arrivals from early next month, all of whom will be placed into quarantine.
The ABC understands that by September 4 about 1,603 invoices have been issued to people for their hotel quarantine.
About 98 per cent of those bills have either been paid in full, are not yet due or are subject to a payment plan or waiver application or approval.
For at least 32 of those invoices, payment remains outstanding.
It comes as Queensland recorded zero new cases of coronavirus overnight, leaving 22 active cases remaining across the state.
Queensland Health did not provide information about whether those debts had been referred to the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER).
Footing the bill for hotel quarantine cost the State Government more than $24 million prior to the new rules requiring people to cover their own costs.
As part of the state’s border restrictions, anyone arriving in Queensland must quarantine if they have been overseas, been in a declared COVID-19 hotspot, been in contact with a case, had the virus or had symptoms in the past 14 days.
From the start of July, anyone who had to isolate at a government-arranged hotel had 30 days to pay the cost at the end of their quarantine period.
Queensland Health said the quarantine fees included accommodation and daily meals, which worked out at about $2,800 for one adult, $3,710 for two adults, or $4,620 for two adults and two children.
“Along with stringent border controls, social distancing and robust testing, quarantine is one of the most important tools in the fight to keep Queenslanders safe from COVID-19,” a spokesperson said.
“Anyone required to quarantine in government-managed accommodation must do so at their own expense — which is a nationally consistent approach, agreed by National Cabinet.
“We understand this is a challenging time for many people and that’s why we’ve made multiple payment options available.”
For those unable to pay their bill within 30 days, plans are available for repayment to be made over a periods of between six and 18 months.
People also have a month to apply to have all or part of their quarantine fees waived on the grounds of vulnerability, financial hardship, or on transitional grounds.
The transitional grounds apply to travellers who had a confirmed international arrival date into Queensland before midnight on June 17, even if they arrived after July 1.
As of Thursday this week, 2,898 hotel rooms were being used for people to quarantine in Queensland.
Queensland to take in more Australians returning from overseas
In yesterday’s National Cabinet meeting, Queensland agreed to take in another 500 Australians per week returning from international travel.
That will increase Queensland’s share of overseas arrivals to 1,000 a week by October 4.
They will still be required to hotel quarantine at their own expense for 14 days.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the State Government would still have to bear some increased costs.
“My understanding is that they will individually be paying for that but of course we have to provide the health response,” she said.
“So that’s the testing, any health support that’s needed and of course it’s a combination of police and ADF.”
The move was a result of the Federal Government’s decision to increase Australia’s international arrivals to 6,000 a week.