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Miles feared Rocky breakout would become Qld's biggest cluster

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Health Minister Steven Miles feared the Rockhampton aged care breach would lead to a cluster of catastrophic proportions.

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A nurse at the state-run North Rockhampton Nursing Centre was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday night. She is believed to have been infected on a recent trip to Brisbane and subsequently worked, and visited other parts of Rockhampton, while contagious.

Rockhampton, a city of more than 80,000 people, was thought to be clear of any active cases. However, the nurse had symptoms from May 5 and could have been spreading the virus days earlier. She breached protocols by not staying home, and seeking testing, as soon as her symptoms appeared.

Speaking on ABC Radio this morning, Miles said that, given the circumstances, Queensland Health was prepared for the worst.

While initial tests of staff, residents and hundreds of locals came back negative, there will be more tests in the coming weeks until the threat has passed.

“Certainly I thought that there would be positive results in that first batch,” Miles said.

“But it is too soon to be relieved. We need to keep monitoring the situation.”

In parliament today, Miles labelled the Rockhampton infection control breach a “potential catastrophe” that required a swift response.

Queensland Health has tested hundreds of people and ramped up contact tracing to clamp down on any outbreak in Rockhampton. Last month in Cairns, after a pathology worked tested positive, some 3,500 hospital staff were screened or tested to rule out an ongoing cluster.

The largest Queensland cluster remains 28 cases from a birthday lunch at Sails Restaurant in Noosa, with overseas travel, including cruise ships, still responsible for the bulk of cases overall.

With no new cases of COVID-19 recorded overnight, the tally remained at 1,057 on Tuesday morning, with six deaths to date and the number of patients in intensive care reduced to one. Queensland Health had expected the tally, and death toll, to be far greater.

“Initial modelling showed Queensland’s death toll due to COVID-19 could have been more than 30 times greater than the number of total cases we have seen,” Miles told parliament.

“Queensland’s position and hold on the virus comes down to the hard work of each and every Queenslander. They listened to the health advice, they listened to the calls to stay home, and they looked out for each other.”

Little more than a week after becoming Deputy Premier, Miles said he remained focussed on the health response but would also “champion” the system and decisions that had so far protected Queensland from the worst.

“It has shown us how vital our world-class, free, universal health system is,” Miles told parliament.

“Public health care has never, ever been more important, and I will fight any attempts to undermine it.”

Miles has also defended the border restrictions that could remain in place until September and have seen Queensland criticised by the NSW and federal governments.

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