Australian James Turnbitt on hunger strike in Melbourne to protest COVID-19 rules after death of mum

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Furious son goes on a hunger strike after heartless Victorian authorities refused to release him from hotel quarantine to see his dying mum – before insisting he would have to charter his own PLANE

  • James Turbitt on hunger strike while quarantining at Melbourne’s Stamford Plaza
  • Made a mercy dash home from Belgium to Australia see his dying mum 
  • Mr Turbitt forced to say final goodbye over a dodgy hotel internet connection 
  • Health officials still to decide if he can attend his mother’s funeral

A grieving son is on a hunger strike in hotel quarantine in Melbourne after authorities refused to grant him an exemption to visit his dying mother in Perth.

James Turbitt was told even if he was released he would have to charter a plane across the country to be granted permission to enter Western Australia. 

Mr Turbitt had made a mercy dash from Belgium to Melbourne after being told there were no direct flights to Perth where his 65-year-old mother was gravely ill.

He arrived on Friday night and was immediately taken to hotel quarantine at the Stamford Plaza and prevented from leaving under what he says are ‘barbaric’ COVID-19 isolation rules.

Mr Turbitt’s mum died alone at Fiona Stanley Hospital on Sunday about 1.30am forcing her son to deliver his last goodbye over a dicey hotel internet connection. 

James Turbitt is staging a hunger strike in protest of the ‘barbaric’ COVID-19 isolation rules that prevented him seeing his dying mum

Mr Turbitt, an Australian citizen who lives in Antwerp, was instructed by Victoria’s  Department of Health to fly directly into Melbourne as no flights were available to land in Perth. 

He was told that even if he was granted an exemption to see his mother, he would have to charter his own plane to Perth to ensure he was not putting the community at risk.

Mr Turbitt had tested negative for COVID-19 before leaving Brussels on June 13, and again before boarding his flight to Melbourne. 

He had not seen his mum for two years and claimed officials were unhelpful, accusing the authorities of showing ‘fake empathy’ towards his plight. 

‘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 said.

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

Mr Turbitt said despite providing documentation showing his mother’s critical condition, his request for an exemption was denied. 

‘No one knows how that feels except me. It was the most distressing thing I have ever had to do,’ he said.

‘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.’

Victorian health officials have since requested funeral details to consider releasing Mr Turbitt to attend his mother’s funeral. 

‘I’m sitting here by myself, I can’t take a domestic plane there, they won’t let me drive there, I don’t have $50,000 for a charter flight, my sister can’t even think about a funeral right now and I can’t even afford to get there if I was allowed,’ he said.

‘I just feel really let down by my own country. I truly believed when I left Brussels that I was going to be able to see my mum, I’m an Aussie citizen, they should be here to help me in times of need.

‘They say they give out passionate exemptions, but they make it impossible to get them.

James Turbitt is currently grieving the death of his mother in quarantine at the Stamford Plaza hotel in Melbourne

James Turbitt is currently grieving the death of his mother in quarantine at the Stamford Plaza hotel in Melbourne

James Turbitt is currently grieving the death of his mother in quarantine at the Stamford Plaza hotel in Melbourne

‘It has just been a paper trail of people passing me on to others. They should just make one national body for compassionate exemptions because when it’s compassionate, things move quick.

Mr Turbitt said there was a cruel double standard allowing celebrities to enter the country and avoid hotel quarantine.

‘Miranda Kerr, Zac Efron, they got hotel exemptions to quarantine at their own villas and I’m stuck here and my mum died,’ he said.

A spokesperson for Victoria’s Department of Health said in statement that they worked hard to facilitate exemptions for COVID-19 quarantines and transits.

The department and COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria said authorities required the approval of another state before granting an exemption for travel. 

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