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Mark Kilian’s father is dying. He might only have hours to live as his body shuts down from pancreatic cancer.
But while Mr Kilian and his wife Anneli have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for weeks, they’re stuck in Sydney hotel quarantine after Queensland Health refused to grant them travel exemptions to say goodbye.
Mark Kilian and Anneli Gericke, trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare, are desperately hoping to see Mark’s father before he dies. Credit:Mark Kilian
The couple landed in Sydney from Los Angeles at 6.55am on Tuesday, having received Australian Border Force and NSW Health exemptions to travel.
A private charter plane was idling on the tarmac to take them straight to Coolangatta Airport. But at the last minute, Queensland Health rejected their exemption request, forcing them into 14 days’ hotel quarantine.
Frans Kilian, 80, is on his deathbed but Queensland Health refuses to give his son Mark a travel exemption – even though he’s vaccinated against COVID-19.
“It’s just an unbelievable situation,” Mr Kilian said. “The direct result of Queensland’s decision is denying me the right to say goodbye to my father. It just strikes me as unbelievably cruel for this situation.”
As US citizens, the couple required an exemption from the Australian Border Force to enter the country. This was granted under the “compassionate and compelling” category.
The approval email stated “the circumstances outweigh the risk to the Australian community.”
Frans Kilian, 80, is terminally ill and hasn’t eaten for days. His doctor Marianne Botha said in a letter supporting the exemption request that his condition was “severe” and his health was deteriorating fast.
“He is losing his mental faculties, his organs are shutting down and the dying process has begun,” Dr Botha wrote.
She noted the couple’s vaccination status should mitigate the public health risk. They had their second vaccine doses in April – Mr Kilian had Pfizer and his wife had Moderna.
They don’t know what risk they pose if the vaccines are as effective as they’re said to be.
“It’s making very little sense,” Mr Kilian said. “It’s very confusing to me that being vaccinated is not making a difference to policy or these individual compassionate claims.
“Yesterday my dad said ‘I’m done.’ [Now] he can’t even talk anymore. I don’t want to tell him that we’re not coming. Otherwise, I think he’ll just give up.”
In an email from Queensland Health on Tuesday morning, seen by this masthead, the exemption request was rejected because “the public health risk with international travellers is significant and the risk of COVID-19 transmission to Queensland is high”.
“As such, we are unable to approve any exemption for you and your wife to transfer from Sydney to Brisbane or to leave hotel quarantine to visit your father until the completion of the 14-day quarantine period.
“Given the gravity of the consequences, it is not a decision the Chief Health Officer [Jeannette Young] takes lightly, and is a deeply unfortunate consequence of the current pandemic.”
Now stranded in the Four Points Sheraton hotel in Chippendale, Mr Kilian is desperate. The charter plane – which cost $15,000 – is on standby in case Dr Young has a change of heart.
“It’s a lot of money for us. It’s not like we’re super rich stars or anything,” Mr Kilian said. “Unless something comes through from Queensland we’re stuck here for two weeks, by which time my dad will be gone for sure.”
A spokeswoman for NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard referred questions to the department. Queensland Health and NSW Health were contacted for comment.
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