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Time warp: Man at centre of Cairns lockdown a threat much earlier

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Contact tracers are going back to July 23 to track the movements of an infected marine pilot who transmitted the Delta virus before anyone thought it was possible.

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Cairns and Yarrabah remain in a snap lockdown after a taxi driver was revealed to have caught COVID-19 from a fully-vaccinated marine pilot who he drove to Cairns Airport on July 26.

That was three days before Queensland Health had believed the marine pilot, who only showed mild symptoms and did not infect his family, could have posed a risk to the community.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young today revealed correspondence with New Zealand authorities about the infected crew on a ship suggested the marine pilot could have been infected when he disembarked on July 23.

“But that was before we thought he was infectious (so) we’re now going back further,” Young said.

Wastewater testing in the week ending July 25 had revealed viral fragments in North Cairns but more exposure sites will now be identified and added to the alert list.

Public health staff from Townsville have now travelled to Cairns, and into lockdown, to help with the response, which saw 4,300 people turn out for testing yesterday. Police praised the community for their compliance with the lockdown and Young urged locals to follow the updates.

Authorities are also looking at adding QR code check-ins to taxis, ride-sharing services and public transport, to help with contact tracing.

At this stage, there are no signs the infection has spread any further. The only new cases reported in Queensland today were three linked to the Indooroopilly cluster, all of whom were in home quarantine while infectious.

On Thursday, it will have been two weeks since the first case in the cluster was reported, involving an Indooroopilly State High School Student. While the south-east Queensland lockdown has been lifted, four local schools remain closed and there are 13,271 in home quarantine – with any infections requiring everyone in the household to remain in quarantine for at least another 14 days.

“I know how tough this must be for all those people in home quarantine but it is really important that they maintain it for the full 14 days since they were last exposed to an infectious person,” Young said.

The Queensland-NSW border zone remains under threat from new cases, and lockdowns, in southern communities.

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