The Queensland premier said: "These are difficult decisions and they're heartbreaking. I'm human, just like everyone else. These issues hurt me deeply. They hurt me deeply because, during this pandemic, I've lost loved ones as well."
The premier choked up while giving the remarks and promptly ended the press conference.
Palaszczuk faced heightened criticism this week after her chief health officer denied 26-year-old Canberra woman Sarah Caislip permission to attend her father's funeral after he died from cancer. Instead, Caislip was stuck in hotel quarantine in Brisbane.
Caislip had applied for an exemption to cross the border to see her dad while he was dying, however, due to the 14-day quarantine process, the final approval came through two days after he had died.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had called the Queensland premier before the funeral to ask her to intervene personally, but Palaszczuk refused and referred the case to chief health officer Jeannette Young.
"Let me make it very clear I don't make those decisions," Palaszczuk said. "I said to the prime minister, I would refer it to the chief health officer, and I did. It's actually her decision."
Caislip was later allowed to view her father's body after the funeral, under strict escort by authorities, and while wearing full PPE.
The premier said she would move to increase the amount of staff assessing applications for compassionate exemptions and said she was open to signing on to a national COVID-19 hotspot regime.
Earlier on Friday, Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington asked the premier if exemptions constituted "one rule for the rich and one rule for everyday Queenslanders" at a parliamentary economics and governance committee hearing.
The premier said there had already been 229 exemptions for compassionate cases, specialist workers, and health workers.
There have also been 31,000 freight exemptions and 170,000 exemptions for people who live in border zones.