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First responder: Coast set to lead vaccinations, back where it all began

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From identifying Queensland’s patient zero to leading the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the Gold Coast has set new records through the past year of Queensland’s pandemic response.

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Gold Coast University Hospital Director of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Dr John Gerard, said the Gold Coast had already established its first immunisation centre and was ready to expand on the directions of Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young, cementing the city’s leading role in the state’s pandemic response.

“There is probably no other city of a comparable size in the world that has not seen a single death of COVID 19 to date,” Gerard said.

“I think it is a tribute to the combined response nationally, at state level and local level to this pandemic.”

The Gold Coast’s position as one of the first identified hubs to roll out the vaccine comes as Australia has been ranked eighth in the world in a new study assessing which county has handled the coronavirus pandemic most effectively.

The Lowy Institute data that assessed the coronavirus response of almost 100 nations including COVID-19 case numbers, testing rates and confirmed deaths highlighted Australia’s strong showing. New Zealand took top spot, closely followed by Vietnam, Taiwan and Thailand.

Gerard said the Gold Coast’s response had been outstanding. “We must be approaching about 300 cases of the virus. Three people have been ventilated. All have survived,” he told ABC Gold Coast.

It was one year ago today that a tourist from the Chinese city of Wuhan presented as ill and was diagnosed with coronavirus on the Gold Coast. The 44-year-old man, who was among a travelling group of nine from Wuhan, was the state’s first confirmed case and Queensland’s patient zero.

The “novel coronavirus” diagnosis coincided with a total of nine people being admitted to hospitals across the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Sydney in the last week of January 2020, signalling the arrival of the virus to Australia.

Gerard said while he thought that the chances that the Gold Coast would see a case was remote, the city was expertly equipped to deal with an outbreak.

“We’ve had plans in place for many years for dealing with a pandemic, a theoretical pandemic,” he said.

“The hospital has been designed to deal with a pandemic situation. We have a dedicated isolation unit which was specifically designed to deal with virus outbreaks such as this and we also have dedicated spaces in the intensive care unit to deal with infectious diseases.”

However, Gerard said it was too early for the Gold Coast or Queensland to be self-congratulatory.

“We are sitting on a tinder box. All it would take is one or two people to come, particularly with one of these new variant strains, and the virus would spread particularly as approach winter.

“It is too early to be resting on our laurels.”

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