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Bishops call for compassionate view in wave of politicking over COVID-19 quarantine restrictions

Compassion: Police at a checkpoint on the Queensland-NSW border in Coolangatta. Archbishop Mark Coleridge has called for compassion as the Queensland Government maintains tough COVID-19 quarantine rules that barred a Canberra-based nurse from attending her father’s funeral. Photo: CNS

BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge has called for compassion as the Queensland Government maintains tough COVID-19 quarantine rules that barred a Canberra-based nurse from attending her father’s funeral.

“If proper precautions are taken in the interests of public health, compassion means that people should be allowed to attend funerals, to visit terminally ill family members before they die, to make mercy dashes to Queensland hospitals when the need is urgent,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

Pandemic border restrictions and stories of families split apart have sparked fiery politicking between Queensland’s Labor and LNP leaders.

There are concerns about apparent double standards that favour some cross-border activities, but stifle others.

National sporting teams can enter and compete in Queensland, and movie star Tom Hanks is filming on the Gold Coast.

Both were examples of allowing exemptions based on economic benefit, not the health protection of the community.

Chief health officer Jeannette Young, who is responsible for delivering the state’s COVID-19 directives, has been the subject of death threats.

In one controversial case, Canberra-based graduate nurse Sarah Caisip, 26, had to “fight” for an exemption to fly into Queensland to visit her father, but it was too late to see him before he died on September 2.

Despite even a plea from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Ms Caisip was refused permission to leave quarantine and join her family attending the funeral.

Ms Caisip was taken under guard from her Brisbane quarantine hotel for a private viewing of her father’s body at the Mount Gravatt crematorium and chapel.

She had to wear full protective clothing, mask and face shield, and was barred from joining her family and fellow mourners for the funeral.

The tragic family story sparked an emotional debate between Mr Morrison and Ms Palaszczuk about handling public health and fighting the pandemic.

“The only thing that matters today is that Sarah can be with her 11-year-old sister Isabel, and her mother Myrna while they mourn the passing of their father,” the Prime Minister told Radio 4BC.

The Queensland Premier responded in Parliament: “We are in extraordinary times at the moment and no one likes the fact that we’re in a global pandemic and no one likes to hear these tragic personal stories.”

Ms Palaszczuk later defended Queensland health measures that have the backing of the Australian Medical Association.

“We’re learning more and more about COVID-19 every day. It’s not like the flu,” she tweeted. “It affects every cell in the body and can leave long-lasting problems in the heart, kidney, brains and lungs.

“That’s why our health measures are in place.”

Archbishop Coleridge said all cases were delicate and required “balancing real values”.

“It’s hard enough to balance the requirements of public health with the needs of the economy but it’s even harder to balance the requirements of public health with the demands of human compassion,” he said.

“Compassion is the supreme value in a situation such as we now face.

“It’s compassion that underlies the requirements of public health and the concern for the economy.

“It’s the same compassion that understands how important it is to respond reasonably and mercifully to real human need, lest still deeper wounds be inflicted.

“That compassion is at the heart of the new kind of solidarity we’ll need to move through the time of pandemic and build a better world beyond it.”

Archbishop Coleridge’s comments add to those contained in “The common good in a COVID world” – a statement by Queensland’s bishops, aimed at helping voters and politicians prepare for a state election on October 31.

“In the COVID-19 response and recovery we all need to be more open, interested and engaged in order to combat the crude tribalism that is infecting Australia and other nations at this time,” the bishops’ statement said.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, the common good is critically important because it obliges us to look beyond our own needs and our own desires to consider the interests of the broader community. It’s at the heart of what we mean by solidarity.”

You can read the bishops’ statement here: https://bit.ly/324nStx

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