Top doctor defends denying woman access to father’s funeral

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer has defended her decision not to allow a grieving daughter out of hotel quarantine to attend her father’s funeral.

The State Government faced a barrage of criticism on Thursday, including from the Prime Minister, after denying the young woman the opportunity to say goodbye to her father alongside her family.

Sarah Caisip arrived in Queensland last week after being granted an exemption to visit her father, who was dying in hospital from cancer.


However, it allegedly took around 20 days for the exemption to be granted, and the young woman’s father passed away while she was still completing her 14-day quarantine in a Brisbane hotel.

Ms Caisip then applied for a separate exemption to attend her father’s funeral in Mt Gravatt at 2.00pm this afternoon, which was denied by health officials.

Instead, Queensland Health is allowing the woman to have a ‘private viewing’ on her own at the funeral home this afternoon, but she will not be able to attend the service with her family.

The 26-year-old, who arrived from Canberra where there have been no cases of COVID-19 in more than 60 days, will be escorted to and from the quarantine hotel to the Brisbane funeral home.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday afternoon, Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young said she had no other choice, as funerals are “very high risk” for transmission of coronavirus.

“That was one of the hardest things that I had to face, because we know that funerals are very, very high risk, for transmission of the virus,” Ms Young said.

“Right at the start of this pandemic, the Australian health protection principle committee put forward a protocol for funerals. Initially we only allowed 10 people to attend a funeral, I’m sure everybody remembers that.

“Then we expanded that to 20. Now, in Queensland we allow 100 people because we know how important it is that families and their friends can grieve together as a group, that is extremely important… but by doing that we have introduced a significant risk.”

Ms Young said the tough rules are in place due to the ages of most people who attend funerals.

“The last thing I would want to happen, is to have an outbreak at a funeral, and by definition, there are always older people attending funerals,” Ms Young said.

“They are a very risky environment for spread of the virus because the nature of the service and what happens, and secondly because of the people that tend to attend those funerals.

“So I do not want to see, in Queensland, any risk of people attending a funeral, getting exposed, getting COVID-19, and then going back to a vulnerable setting.”

The Chief Health Officer said she made no apologies for protecting the health and well-being of the people in her state.

“That’s something I’m absolutely adamant. I will do everything I possibly can, because every single death is a really difficult death for someone, including me. I don’t want to see Queenslanders dying from COVID-19, that I could have prevented,” she said.

“I can’t prevent every single death, but those that I can prevent, I’m absolutely adamant, I make no apologies, I will do my best to prevent.”

Ms Young said there are exceptions for people from hotspots to be allowed into the state to attend a funeral, however she confirmed they have to complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine first.

“Having said that, I also understand, the awful situation for people coming into Queensland, from interstate and overseas that can’t attend a funeral to mourn their loved one… So we do have some processes in place, to try and help with that,” Ms Young said.

“Of course, if they wish to, and the funeral home can support it and a large number have, then they can go and have a private farewell, with a loved one in the funeral home… That can be done, and has been done a number of times, very safely due to the support of the funeral home, but they do need to wait 14 days before they can attend a funeral.”

It comes after the Prime Minister issued a desperate plea to the Premier of Queensland this morning, begging her to “show some compassion” and overrule the “heartbreaking” decision.

“This is a heartbreaking story, I rang the Premier this morning and I have appealed to her to overrule the decision that would allow Sarah to go to the funeral today,” an emotional Scott Morrison told Nine radio.

“It isn’t about the Premier of Queensland, and me and anyone else… With everything that everyone is going through surely just this once this can be done.

“The only thing that matters today is that Sarah can be with her 11-year-old sister and her mother while they mourn the passing of their father and husband.”