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Shock new COVID case in Queensland as thousands travel north for footy

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A Melbourne woman somehow travelled from her locked down city through NSW into Queensland, to join family in Caloundra, before she tested positive for COVID-19. Queensland Health is scrambling to contain the threat.

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The woman, 44, travelled north with her husband, crossing the border out west and travelling through Goondiwindi and Toowoomba to get to the Sunshine Coast.

There will be an investigation into how, and why, they were able to avoid the hotel quarantine requirement imposed by Queensland Health after the recent Melbourne outbreak.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the woman tested positive yesterday and residents of the Sunshine Coast, in particular, were now being urged to heed the official warnings.

Public testing sites will be open longer, and private resources brought in to help, in hope community transmission can be avoided. More doses of COVID-19 vaccines are also being sent to the Sunshine Coast.

The woman and her partner left Melbourne on June 1 and arrived in Queensland on June 5. They travelled by car, crossing the border at Goondiwindi, where they had McDonalds for breakfast – creating the first potential exposure site.

“She is currently being interviewed but we do have a list of exposure sites of where she had been in Queensland,” D’Ath said.

“We have been here before, we know what to do. If you have been to any of the exposure sites, whether you have symptoms or not, we would like you to come forward and get tested.”

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young would not be drawn on whether the couple had breached the rules.

She said she had to focus on releasing details of the exposure sites – which include, from June 6, several Sunshine Coast shopping centres, cafes and a Bunnings – given the woman could potentially have been spreading the virus since she left Melbourne.

“She could well have been infectious while she was travelling through New South Wales,” Young said.

The partner has so far tested negative, but has also been admitted to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, while six other close contacts have been tested and others are being traced. The woman’s test results were double checked and confirmed this afternoon.

The woman first felt symptoms on June 3, and her partner is considered to be most at risk given they shared a car together for an extended period of time.

Young is seeking serology results to help determine how long the woman has been infectious. She said it was too early to ascertain the risks involved, and did not believe tonight’s State of Origin in Townsville was threatened, but urged Queenslanders to exercise caution.

“The best way to work out what the risk is is for people to come forward and get tested,” Young said, adding that it would also avoid the need for any lockdown.

It comes as the Victorian Government plans to lift its two-week lockdown at midnight, albeit with some intrastate travel restrictions and social distancing still required.

“Any case of Covid is frustrating, the community has had to put up with so much now for 18 months and to do this again … is going to be frustrating for a lot of people,” Young said.

Victorian residents entering Queensland have been required to quarantine in hotels at their expense for 14-days, due to the risk of the southern outbreak spreading north.

Despite the apparent breach of travel restrictions, Queensland still intends to scale back the hotspot declaration at 1am on Friday.

Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said an investigation would determine how the couple came to arrive in the state and whether any declaration was falsified. They could face infringement notices or even be taken to court.

Queensland Health had earlier announced no new community-acquired cases in the past 24 hours – the last was on April 3 – and another two cases detected in hotel quarantine.

It had hoped to use the number of people travelling to Townsville for the State of Origin to boost vaccination rates, and promoted the clinic available at the local hospital. Now, there is likely to be a testing blitz across south-east Queensland as well.

Some 22,500 room nights have been booked at local accommodation providers, with so many visitors a tent city had to be established as well.

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