Authorities scramble after vital hours lost

 

PRECIOUS hours were wasted when a woman infected with COVID-19 refused to co-operate with authorities for more than a day, as new details emerged of a police investigation into her trip with two others to Melbourne to procure high-end designer gear.

It can be revealed highly-trained, specialist police were called in to bring family members of Olivia Winnie Muranga and Diana Lasu into hotel quarantine, amid fears they were also infected with the virus.

It has also emerged the pair hosted an Airbnb party at a Melbourne CBD apartment - while the virus-riddled city was in hard lockdown - two days before allegedly lying to get back into Queensland, according to police.

wide image of girls in coronavirus scandal
wide image of girls in coronavirus scandal

Muranga and Lasu remained under police guard in the prison ward of the Princess Alexandra Hospital on Thursday as police charged them and a third travelling companion with providing false or misleading documents and fraud - for which the maximum penalty is five years' jail.

Police have also revealed a separate criminal investigation is under way, run by detectives from the coronavirus response unit Task Force Sierra Linnet, that is "unrelated and not connected to the alleged travel to Victoria".

The women are alleged to have lied about whether they had travelled to a coronavirus hotspot to get back into Queensland by flying home from Melbourne via Sydney.

Police initially investigated the movements of Muranga and Lasu before revealing a third woman had travelled with them.

The deception, which police claim was "planned" has exposed the vulnerability of Queensland's "honour system" border restrictions, with authorities not realising Muranga and Lasu were moving around the community while infected for eight days.

Police and health authorities are using mobile phone data and banking information to track the movements of the women, with Lasu refusing to co-operate with contact tracers until late Thursday.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young revealed at a press conference early on Thursday the woman "has not wanted to let us know where she has been", putting Queenslanders at risk.

"I don't know where that second case has been," Dr Young said.

"I am worried about the second individual who had not been cooperative and has not shared where she has been."

Lasu decided to co-operate later in the day, according to police.

It is understood the specialist Public Safety Response Team was used to bring family members of the women into hotel quarantine among fears they were also infected with the virus.

The women's re-entry into Queensland came just two days after they were busted hosting a loud and drunken party at a short-term rental in Melbourne's CBD.

The virus-riddled city was in hard lockdown when Muranga, Lasu and their Brisbane friend were found with a group of up to 30 people at the city apartment.

Police responding to a noise complaint busted up the party, removed them all from the rental property and handed out more than $30,000 in fines.

Both Muranga, Lasu and the friend were told they'd breached Victoria's health directives and fined $1652.

But far from learning their lesson, the trio flew home via Sydney to allegedly convince officials they had not been to Melbourne.

It is understood at least two of the women asked for private viewings of high-end designer gear - including handbags worth thousands - during their trip to Melbourne.

Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski confirmed the women had not used false identities on border declarations but had simply lied to authorities about where they had been.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the women had put the lives and wellbeing of Queenslanders at risk.

"There is a social responsibility here for everyone to do the right thing," she said.

"These are people who deliberately went about doing the wrong thing.

"I am angry."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the woman had put the “lives and wellbeing” of Queenslanders at risk. Picture: Liam Kidston
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the woman had put the “lives and wellbeing” of Queenslanders at risk. Picture: Liam Kidston

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said she was "bitterly disappointed" but police were now sure they had all members of the travelling party identified in the three women.

"They went to extraordinary lengths to be deceitful and deceptive and … that has what has put the community at risk," she said.

Ms Carroll said the women would face court to send a message that "we will not tolerate this behaviour at our borders".

Asked whether they should face jail time if found guilty, she said: "I think that the courts will hopefully look at this very, very seriously, as is the public."

Police said the women, a 19-year-old from Heritage Park, a 21-year-old from Acacia Ridge and a 21-year-old from Algester, would appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on September 28.

All three remain in quarantine.

The charge of providing false or misleading documents carries a maximum penalty of $13,345, while the fraud offence has a maximum penalty of five years in jail.

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Authorities scramble after vital hours lost


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