Two returnees in isolation at Pullman hotel denied chance to see dying parents

Two returnees in managed isolation who were denied exemptions to see dying relatives say the process was frustrating and stressful. 

Hundreds of returnees have been denied a chance to say goodbye including Stacey Brown.

Brown was alone in her room at the Pullman Hotel when she found out her mum Priscilla lost her battle with lung cancer on Monday night.  

"The last conversation with my mum was asking if she knew she was going to see me or not."

But Brown never got that chance as the decision for her compassionate exemption application came too late.

"I heard back yesterday, which was Wednesday.. and they declined my application... now I have to ride out this process alone and not fully grieve my mum properly."

It's a heartbreaking reality hundreds are having to deal with as only 48 applications for compassionate exemption have been approved. So far, 567 have been declined. 

On the same night, in the same hotel as Brown, another returnee found out his dad died and didn't get a chance to say goodbye. 

A matter of days wouldn't have made a difference because his application was also declined.

The only explanation both applicants were given is that they were a risk to public health.

"They don't go on to give any reason," said Simon Foote QC, who has helped several cases of travellers seeking exemptions. "Nor do they give any suggestions for further evidence that may be considered and change the view of the ministry and I think that's unfair."

Foote said the vital part is the detailed plan needed for each application.

Head of MIQ facilities, Digby Webb, has said he is "the sole decision-maker" for exemption applications and he puts the team of 5 million first. 

"That, therefore, means the needs of the individuals are not met in that instance… that means the sacrifices of one in this instance shouldn't affect hundreds of others," Webb said.

It's a sacrifice many returnees are forced to make, but not elite rugby players.  

The Wallabies have been given a ticket out of quarantine to train in November and Brown isn't impressed.

"I feel like you have to be a movie star or rich to be considered for that. It's so unfair," she said.