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Why Premier says Queensland now facing vital week


Despite record testing and a limited number of confirmed cases linked to the Melbourne cluster over the weekend, health officials are not celebrating avoiding a second surge of infections in Queensland just yet.

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Despite record testing and a limited number of confirmed cases linked to the Melbourne cluster over the weekend, health officials are not celebrating avoiding a second surge of infections in Queensland just yet.

Yesterday Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young said the next several days would determine whether there had been any widespread community transmission, after the state’s south-east was put on high alert last week.

“We remain at five cases now related to that trip made by those women down to Melbourne,” she said.

“The next week will really be telling — it’s the next week where we have to be absolutely cautious.”

Queensland has been on edge since two women tested positive to COVID-19, after travelling from Victoria and allegedly deliberately dodging the state’s quarantine rules.

They have been charged after they allegedly visited various places ranging from schools to cafes while infectious over several days, sparking a major public health alert.

A further three people linked to the women have now tested positive, including a couple who had dined at the same restaurant as one of the women more than a week ago.

Tens of thousands of tests have since been carried out across the state, including more than 100 residents at an aged care facility in Brisbane, where one of the latest people to test positive worked.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it was reassuring that almost all of the residents’ tests had come back negative, but the risk was far from over.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” she said.

The facility will remain locked down, with the health of the residents being monitored closely over two weeks.

Hundreds of other aged care centres across several local government areas in the southeast have also been placed into lockdown as a precaution.

‘We need to do everything we can’

The Queensland Nurses’ Union, which represents many aged care workers, is supporting the temporary ban on visitors to aged care facilities.

“We have to put safety first,” the union’s secretary Beth Mohle said.

“We just do not want to be in the position that Victoria is in.

“It is absolutely heartbreaking what’s happening there.

“We need to do everything we can to keep our elderly Queenslanders safe”.

‘Urgent intervention’

Under the lockdowns, authorities want to avoid aged care staff working across multiple facilities.

But Mohle said that is common practice amongst low-paid workers, and could significantly reduce their earnings.

“We are seeking urgent intervention to make sure they are able to put food on the table,” she said.

The union is asking for emergency payments for aged care workers.

“We have written to the Deputy Premier late last week calling for urgent intervention along those lines,” Mohle said.

“We think the federal and state governments do have to be taking action to guarantee the earnings of aged workers because they are amongst the lowest-paid workers in the country.”

Next seven days crucial

Virologist Ian MacKay from the University of Queensland said Queenslanders need to remain vigilant.

“The next seven days are really crucial and we need to be on top of trying to capture any case that could possibly have spun out of this cluster,” he said.

“We know that the median incubation period is around five to six days so most people come up positive within a week of being exposed, but then there are others that can test positive up to that 14-day period.”

“We know this virus can fly under the radar, there can be asymptomatic cases or very mild cases that might be put off as being just a cold — but you must get tested.”

Yesterday, Queensland recorded one new case of coronavirus which was unrelated to the women who travelled from Melbourne.

It was a man in his 20s, who was a consular official, and had been given an exemption from hotel quarantine after recently returning from overseas.

He flew to Maroochydore from Sydney last Friday before driving to quarantine in Toowoomba.

Contact tracing for the flight is underway.

– ABC / Talissa Siganto and Jessica van Vonderen

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