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Farm workers clear as Queensland enjoys another virus-free day

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All workers on a Queensland farm exposed to a fruit-picker who travelled from Victoria while infected with COVID-19 have tested negative to the virus.

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More than 230 people were tested, including at a pop-up clinic at the farmworker’s accommodation in Bundaberg, after the man was found to be sick.

Health Minister Steven Miles announced on Tuesday night all 147 workers have returned negative tests. Queensland’s tally of active cases remains at three.

Miles’ office has not confirmed whether all the other remaining test results have come back.

The 24-year-old man flew from Melbourne to Brisbane last week, where he socialised with friends and family, before flying to Bundaberg, checking into shared accommodation and working a shift at a strawberry farm.

Forty four people are in quarantine after coming in contact with the man.

Authorities will conduct a round of follow-up tests later this week.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today confirmed the state’s COVID-19 tally remained unchanged at 1,062 after the seventh day so far this month with no new cases. Two cases were added last weekend, but the number of active cases has dropped since the end of May, from five to three.

That is in stark contrast to the overall situation with the pandemic, after more than 136,000 new cases were reported worldwide on Sunday – the most in a single day since the first outbreak was reported in China in January.

Australia on Tuesday reported no community transmission of COVID-19, which was a particularly significant milestone given the prior spread of the virus in NSW and Victoria. There were 445 active cases across the country.

Governments, including Queensland, have moved into the economic recovery phase of the pandemic. While international border restrictions will remain in place for some time, interstate controls have come under increasing scrutiny.

In Rockhampton today to visit a construction site and promote local tourism, the Premier said she had made it “absolutely clear” the Queensland border restrictions would not be reviewed until the end of June.

“With some community transmission happening in other states, Queenslanders tell me they do not want a second wave and I do not want a second wave,” Palaszczuk told reporters.

In NSW, which shares a border with Queensland, three new cases have been reported today, all returning travellers in hotel quarantine. However, the state has now gone two full weeks without a single case of community transmission, which will likely support NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s campaign for Queensland to open its borders.

Queensland Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles today said the state’s response to COVID-19 was one of the best in the world. Even this month, with few new cases, more than 30,000 tests have been done to rule out new infections.

Victoria has had more recent clusters, and a fruitpicker who travelled to Brisbane and on to Bundaberg, where he was diagnosed with COVID-19, sparked fears of an outbreak this month. However, all his close contacts have been tested and cleared.

On Friday, National Cabinet will discuss the epidemiology of the virus SARS-CoV-2 and disease COVID-19, how it might spread if border restrictions are eased, and the timeframe for economic stimulus measures. Palaszczuk said she expected federal, state and territory leaders to also discuss the potential threat posed by mass gatherings at protests last weekend, amid claims the rallies might setback the recovery efforts.

In Federal Parliament today, Labor MPs who took part in the Black Lives Matter protests have been ordered to self-isolate until tests clear them of COVID-19. Some private sector employers have asked the same of their staff, however there is no official ruling on the issue, and it may be some time before any infections are confirmed.

Palaszczuk discouraged people from attending the protests but did not try to ban them. Today, she again encouraged Queenslanders to book holidays – and spend money in the tourism and hospitality sectors – in the June-July school holidays to help those businesses “doing it tough”.

While Palaszczuk would not be drawn on when the borders might reopen, she said “we’ve opened Queensland up for Queenslanders”.

The World Health Organisation, meanwhile, is concerned the pandemic has yet to peak in some other countries.

“More than six months into the pandemic, this is not the time for any country to take its foot off the pedal,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told an online briefing on Monday.

More than 136,000 new cases were reported worldwide on Sunday, the most in a single day so far, he said. Nearly 75 per cent of them were reported from 10 countries, mostly in the Americas and South Asia.

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