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Australian woman accused of setting fire to quarantine hotel

A woman in Cairns, Australia is facing arson charges after allegedly setting fire to her quarantine hotel room, according to the city’s police.

The woman is accused of lighting a fire underneath her bed at the Pacific Hotel Cairns early on 28 November, Cairns acting chief superintendent, Chris Hodgman, told press on Sunday.

A fire broke out at the hotel as a result, scorching much of the 11th floor and causing 100 people to be evacuated, though nobody was injured.

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Hodgman told Reuters that the woman – who was travelling with her children – had been taken into police custody, while her children were also in police care.

“I expect later on this morning that a 31-year-old female will be charged with arson and the possibility of other offences,” said Hodgman.

He confirmed that the woman had been in quarantine for a couple of days and there had been issues with her that authorities “were managing”.

Fully vaccinated Australian citizens have been able to travel freely since 1 November, but unvaccinated residents must have a government exemption to do so, and many travellers entering the country must still go into hotel quarantine.

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States including New South Wales and Victoria had plans to waive quarantine for fully vaccinated residents from last month, but extended quarantine rules this week due to the emergence of the omicron variant.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk called for tighter quarantine rules in the country on Monday, amid fears about the new variant, saying: “I am a bit worried about how many people are in Australia at the moment that are not in hotel quarantine, so I would like some answers on that tomorrow.”

Prime minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday that Australia will push back its opening to some foreign nationals by a fortnight while the country’s scientists learn more about the potential impact of the new variant.

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