James Turbitt denied a hotel quarantine exemption to see his dying mum

Western Australia is unapologetic after a man staging a hunger strike in hotel quarantine was denied an exemption to see his mum before she died in Perth.

Premier Mark McGowan issued a cold response on Tuesday when asked why Perth man James Turbitt wasn’t granted an exemption to see his mum before she passed away in Fiona Stanley Hospital on Sunday morning.

Mr Turbitt, 35, flew into Melbourne from Belgium on Friday night after rushing to book a flight when his mum’s health rapidly deteriorated.

He was unable to get a flight directly to Perth and was trapped isolating at Stamford Plaza in Melbourne’s CBD when he was forced to say his final goodbye to his mum over a dodgy hotel internet connection.

“This is one of the issues when you live overseas, you may not be able to get back for these sorts of things so that’s a risk that unfortunately some people take,” Mr McGowan said.

Mr Turbitt is an Australian citizen who lives in Antwerp with his girlfriend and said he moved overseas well before the Covid-19 pandemic started.

His girlfriend is not an Australian citizen and can’t get into the country due to the federal government’s tough border closure.

Earlier, on ABC Perth, Mr McGowan said he didn’t know the circumstances of Mr Turbitt’s case but acknowledged it sounded “very distressing”.

“We have been through this system for 18 months where we’ve had very strict arrangements in place and it’s kept us safe,” he said.

Melbourne from Belgium

Camera IconJames Turbitt at his hotel quarantine room at the Stamford Plaza in Melbourne. Studio 10 Credit: Supplied

“Australia has had very strict systems – at times it’s resulted in a great deal of distress for people.”

Victoria’s Acting Premier James Merlino indicated an exemption would have been granted, but the final decision rested with WA Health.

Mr Merlino said he was “really sorry” an exemption couldn’t be granted and blamed Western Australia for the outcome.

“In terms of commercial flights, quarantine arrangements, they are really decisions that have been made in the jurisdiction at which that person wanted to go,” he said.

“That was not able to be done in terms of the response from the other jurisdiction.”

Mr Turbitt claimed WA officials had again been in touch and said the state did not grant exemptions, meaning he will be forced to serve out the remaining 10 days of his quarantine alone in Melbourne.

Melbourne from Belgium

Camera IconJames Turbitt has been isolating at the Stamford Plaza in central Melbourne. NCA NewsWire / Sarah Matray Credit: News Corp Australia

He said he was told by the Victorian health department that even if he was granted an exemption, he would need to charter his own plane to Western Australia so there would be no risk to anyone else.

Mr Turbitt has pledged to go on a hunger strike to raise awareness of his situation so that others don’t have to suffer from such “barbaric” rules.

“No one else should have to go through this. I know it’s not the best thing to do, but it’s immoral, it’s inhumane,” he told NCA NewsWire from his hotel room in Melbourne.

“I loved my mother wholeheartedly and I had to spend her last moments locked in a quarantine hotel room all by myself, powerless.

Melbourne from Belgium

Camera IconJames Turbitt’s hotel quarantine room in Melbourne. Credit: Supplied

“No one knows how that feels except me. It was the most distressing thing I have ever had to do.

“There needs to be some change to these inhumane laws … so that in the future other people in my situation might well just be able to get to say goodbye.”

He said he hadn’t seen his mum, who died aged 65, in two years and “honestly” believed he would get to see her when he boarded the flight from Brussels.

He said if he was granted an exemption straight away he would have made it in time.

Mr Turbitt tested negative twice before boarding the plane and again since arriving in Australia.

He has called for a national body for compassionate exemptions instead of dealing with individual states, as the situation changed rapidly when compassionate reasons were involved.

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