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Dodging a bullet: Lockdown may end before Easter after 'very encouraging results'

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Only three new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed overnight, giving Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confidence the Brisbane lockdown might still be lifted before Easter.

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Two of the three new cases were community-acquired and linked to the second Princess Alexandra Hospital cluster involving a nurse who was infected and inadvertently spread the virus in the community. One of today’s cases is another nurse, who worked with COVID-19 patients where she was infected, and the other is a flatmate.

While there has been criticism of the failure to protect health workers, amid the slow rollout of vaccinations, the latest nurse to test positive had received the first of two injections and not yet developed full immunity. The previous nurse was also infected despite not having contact with the patient she was linked with through genomic sequencing.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said the nature of the outbreak had required a ward to be closed at the busy hospital.

“There is most likely some environmental contamination or some aerosolisation (airborne virus) of the patient when the patient was admitted,” Young said.

Of the 71 active cases in Queensland, most were acquired overseas. Two returned travellers carrying the more contagious UK variant sparked the two current clusters and the three-day snap lockdown.

Palaszczuk today said the ability of contact tracers to link all cases in the clusters was an encouraging sign, as was the fact 33,408 tests were done in a 24-hour period.

While the greater Brisbane lockdown has already been tightened, but is due to end tomorrow afternoon, Palaszczuk will make an announcement in the morning. She said she wanted to provide would-be holidaymakers with certainty either way.

“Fingers crossed, all will be looking good for Easter,” Palaszczuk said.

Some 1,700 people are understood to now be in quarantine or isolation, including several people who went to a hen’s party in Byron Bay with the first nurse and her infected sister. The number of cases in that second cluster now stands at 11. Of the 10 people who attended the party, six now have COVID-19 – being treated in hospitals across the state – as does a male entertainer who performed at their house before returning to life as a tradie on the Gold Coast.

NSW Health this morning confirmed another case from the Byron Beach Hotel visited by some of the party-goers and subject to a public health alert. Amid social distancing requirements, organisers of the popular Byron Bluesfest are expected to announce this afternoon whether it will go ahead this weekend.

The previous cluster, which involved a PA Hospital doctor with unknown links to people on the northside of Brisbane, has not grown beyond eight cases. Close contacts remain in isolation and will undergo further tests.

Young had warned that the movement of infected people throughout the community would lead to more venues being subject to a public health alert.

Young said thousands of people were being contacted and reminded of the need to get tested and isolate.

“We’re still tracking down people from those venues,” Young said.

There are now 64 venues on that list, including hotels, restaurants, gyms, shopping centres, supermarkets, hardware stores, trains, an escape room, and even surfing and surf lifesaving events on the Gold Coast.

Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said Queenslanders continued to do the right thing and comply with the restrictions and directions.

From May 1, all hospitality venues will be required to use the government’s check-in app to assist with contact tracing efforts.

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