Queensland couple's COVID-19 hotel quarantine exemption denied despite two weeks alone in Pacific Ocean

Mike and Sue Rose scuba diving in Fiji. Picture: Supplied
Mike and Sue Rose scuba diving in Fiji. Picture: Supplied

It's arguably the best form of social distancing during a global pandemic.

A Queensland couple somewhere in the Pacific Ocean alone on a boat, thousands of kilometres away from COVID-19 risk and sharing their days with dolphins and whales.

Mike and Sue Rose have spent the past nine months sailing around the world on the boat they bought in Panama.

The Gold Coast couple set off in October for the trip they had been planning for years, which a busy work schedule never allowed time for.

"We actually bought this boat prior to the pandemic, and it was kind of a project boat that was sitting in Panama, it's been doing nothing five years so we went across to do some work on it," Mr Rose said.

Although plagued with travel restrictions up-ending their plans, Mr Rose said it had been an "extraordinary experience" that had taken them from Panama to Ecuador, French Polynesia and Fiji.

On their return to Australia this week, the Roses had hoped to be exempt from hotel quarantine, and rather isolate on their boat for 14 days, as they have done in island nations like Fiji.

However, their request for exemption was denied by Queensland Health.

Both Mr and Mrs Rose received Pfizer vaccinations in French Polynesia and will not have had contact with anyone in the two-week journey from Fiji to Australia.

"I'm not sure what better isolation you could have than two people on a boat in the middle of the ocean. It just seems ridiculous," Mr Rose said.

"Spending two weeks on a boat in the ocean, and then coming back [to hotel quarantine]."

Mike Rose had been planning the trip for years, but work never allowed time for it. Picture: Supplied

Mike Rose had been planning the trip for years, but work never allowed time for it. Picture: Supplied

The couple will go customs as usual and then be taken to hotel quarantine in Brisbane.

A Queensland Health spokesman said days at sea don't count under international quarantine requirements because elements such as regular PCR testing "cannot be met or verified".

People in hotel quarantine are monitored daily and required to get a COVID-19 test on entry and prior to leaving. Anyone with symptoms is required to tell staff immediately.

"Queensland has remained agile and we have continually adapted our approach and the way we respond to the challenges COVID-19 has placed on our community," he said.

The pandemic has thrown plenty of curveballs to the couple's Pacific adventure, but they've received a warm welcome at destinations typically brimming with tourists, and now struggling to welcome international arrivals.

"It's been amazing, the really warm welcome, because a lot of places [we've] been are quite touristy, but there's no tourists and so the locals are so excited to see you," he said.

"We've been planning this for a long time. I thought with my work, I was never going to get the time off to do it."

Sue Rose at the start of the couple's Pacific adventure. Picture: Supplied

Sue Rose at the start of the couple's Pacific adventure. Picture: Supplied

Along the way, the couple has been met with pods of dolphins and whales swimming alongside their boat.

A fishing line out the the back of the boat ensures fresh seafood every few days.

"The longest section was 34 days - from Ecuador to French Polynesia - so a little bit of fresh food was great," Mr Rose said.

Although living alone on a boat, the couple hasn't been able to avoid quarantine.

The couple was, however, able to complete their 14-days of isolation in Fiji on their catamaran.

A "blue lane" system has been implemented in Fiji, which allows seafarers to isolate for 14 days on their vessel before arriving on shore.

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After two weeks at sea, which includes travel time from the last destination, and a negative Covid test, the Roses were welcomed onto the island nation.

A recent surge in cases in Fiji has meant new restrictions on inter-island travel.

"Fiji [had] no Covid at all for 300 days and everything was going really well, then they had some sort of breach with an international flight passenger," he said.

"It's exploded, so they've [implemented] an inter-island travel ban, so we're allowed to travel most places in Fiji ... but we're not allowed to get off the boat anywhere apart from the port that we checked in."

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This story 'What better isolation': Couple sailing through the Covid pandemic first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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