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We've dodged a bullet - aged care bans to lift as Qld adds one new case

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Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young praises Brisbane and Logan for their response to COVID-19 threat but is worried the Gold Coast may still be the weak link.

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After Australia’s deadliest weekend since the pandemic began, Queensland was fortunate to record just one new case – in a traveller returned from overseas and already in quarantine. The Queensland death toll remains, as it has been for months, at six, with 1072 people recovering from COVID-19.

Over the weekend, there was no further community transmission of COVID-19 flowing from border control breaches that forced aged care facilities in Brisbane and Logan into lockdown.

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said that was good news for families with a loved one in aged care, who could mostly resume visits without risk of unknowingly transmitting the virus.

“We’ve avoided the risks of a widespread outbreak from those returning cases from Melbourne,” Miles said today.

A centre at Pinjarra Hills will stay restricted for another day to rule out any infections. A woman who works at the facility was infected at a Sunnybank restaurant by one of three women who breached border controls after returning from Melbourne.

A separate breach involving three men who spent much longer in Melbourne, but less time in the community on their return to Queensland, has yet to lead to any cases. Breaches of that kind, and one involving a traveller who flew via the ACT to hide links to hotspots, prompted the decision to impose further restrictions on the border over the weekend.

While border communities on the Gold Coast have been given some flexibility to come and go as required, under a “border bubble” arrangement, Young appeared doubtful this arrangement would last. She said it was a “really difficult part” of Queensland’s COVID-19 response.

“The border is difficult because people from New South Wales can travel into those New South Wales border areas and they can then pass on the infection, if they have it, to someone who lives in that area who can then cross the border into Queensland,” Young said.

Young said authorities were monitoring the situation in NSW for any sign of cases moving north of Newcastle.

“And they will, because there is free movement, of course, in New South Wales,” she said.

Young urged people on both sides of the border to get their affairs in order before Queensland had to tighten restrictions. She referred to people doing house swaps in order to be able to live, and work, on the same side of the border, or being given only temporary exemptions while they looked for longer-term solutions.

Miles said there had been an increase in requests for special exemptions, particularly from people on the Gold Coast.

“They really are as far as we can go and if we were to see cases in northern New South Wales we would have to adjust them,” Miles said.

Any northern NSW cases in the coming days would present serious challenges as south-east Queensland has a long weekend from Friday and residents have been encouraged to holiday locally – including on the Gold Coast.

Young said it was crucial that Queensland was able to identify any cases of COVID-19 before they spread. She said that could only happen if people followed the rules, practised social distancing, stayed home if sick and washed their hands.

“If we can get the first case, not the fourth case or the 50th case … and stop those chains of transmission we’ll be able to manage it going forward,” Young said.

Police continue to investigate a handful of cases of people not in home isolation as required and have issued further breach notices to people allegedly providing misleading information.

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