The only new case of COVID-19 reported overnight was a person in contact with a confirmed case from the corrective services training facility cluster – and they were already in quarantine.
Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said that due to Queensland Health’s response, the person had only been in the community for two days while potentially infectious. That minimised the risk of further cases.
“This is really the best we can hope for,” Miles told reporters in Cairns.
As the number of tests fell back to normal levels, of around 6,800 tests in the previous 24 hours, the time to provide results has also improved.
After weeks of sporadic outbreaks, and a suspected common thread between the Logan, youth detention centre and corrective services training facility clusters, the number of active cases in Queensland now stands at 27. That is significantly below the numbers seen in Queensland before May, and relatively minor in comparison to Victoria and even New South Wales.
“The cluster in the southeast, at this stage, seems to be under control,” Miles said.
For the time being, restrictions on gatherings, and visits to aged care, health and disability services facilities, will remain. Today, the restrictions were extended west to the Darling Downs, and already covered the council areas of Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Ipswich, Logan, Scenic Rim, Somerset, the Lockyer Valley, Moreton Bay and Redlands.
Queensland’s border restrictions have played a pivotal role in the pandemic response, however there have been reports of people being unable to cross for medical treatment, or funerals, and claims this may have contributed to the death of an unborn baby.
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has been adamant the process for granting exemptions would identify genuine, clinical need, and that any emergency transfers would still go ahead. She has urged patients, and their doctors, to follow that process.
However, Young – who has been in charge of the pandemic response for seven months – will no longer have sole responsibility for deciding exemptions. On Friday, she suggested the process was being overwhelmed by applications from people in Victoria.
“I believe I am a compassionate person,” Young said.
“At this point in time – but we are working through the process – all of these exemptions come to me and I work through them. That’s not sustainable because we are getting so many requests now, we are getting very large numbers of requests, particularly from Victorians who want to come up to Queensland because they don’t want to remain in lockdown.”
Premier Annastacia Palaszcazuk today announced a dedicated unit would be established in the Chief Health Officer’s team to consider applications for exemptions. Acknowledging it was a “very emotional time for people,” Palaszczuk said the unit would have the services of a social worker.
Miles said the restrictions were necessary and the government had provided an avenue for people to seek exemptions. He suggested there had been some confusion around the issue and complaints were in the minority.
“A lot of these exemptions get approved, a lot of these pass unnoticed,” Miles said.
Between 18 June and 7 August, there were about 10,500 requests for exemptions from quarantine in Queensland. According to Queensland Health, fewer than 40 met the criteria for exceptional circumstance to quarantine outside of government-nominated accommodation.
Miles conceded there were still “too many” people feeling they had been unable to travel for health services and the unit would help alleviate those concerns.
Palaszczuk reiterated Queensland would not deny entry to people needing emergency or specialist treatment. However, she and Miles said funerals were still risky, and applications had to be considered on their merits.
But amid renewed complaints of families of boarding students separated by border restrictions, Palaszczuk said she would not be opening the border until it was safe to do so.
“I’m not going to be moved on this … because fundamentally the health of Queenslanders is my number one concern,” Palaszczuk said.
“And you can’t have a strong economy, you can’t have an economy growing unless you have health under control.”
Victoria today reported 73 new cases of COVID-19 – NSW reported 10 – and added 41 deaths to the state’s tally. Queensland, to date, has had six deaths, all earlier in the year.
Palaszczuk and Miles were in Cairns for a community cabinet meeting, which has been postponed twice because of the pandemic. They urged Queenslanders to travel within Queensland to help businesses cover for the loss of interstate and international tourists.Jump to next article