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People’s Day: Lockdown lifts in Cairns, clusters contained, vax hub up and running

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Today was meant to be a public holiday in Brisbane, for People’s Day at the Ekka. Authorities say there is still cause for celebration after Queenslanders managed to halt the spread of the Delta variant – again.

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The Delta outbreak in Brisbane schools brought a snap lockdown and lingering restrictions that cancelled the city’s annual show for another year.

Masks and social distancing are still in place, as the cordon around schools is eased, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today said there was cause for celebration.

The Indooroopilly cluster has now been contained, while a feared cluster in far north Queensland is being ruled out.

“Who would have thought a week ago we would be in this position today,” Palaszczuk said.

The Premier made the comments while inspecting the first day of appointments at a mass vaccination hub at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. Queenslanders have been quick to fill any available appointments, and the hub was fully booked on its opening day with 1,500 set to receive Pfizer doses.

The south-east Queensland lockdown was lifted on Sunday, as Cairns and Yarrabah were ordered into lockdown, after a taxi driver in the far north Queensland city tested positive.

The taxi driver was infected by a marine pilot, who was himself infected on July 23, and despite both being infectious in the community for over a week no further cases have been identified.

The Cairns and Yarrabah lockdown will end, as scheduled, at 4pm on Wednesday but the community will be required to abide by the same restrictions, including mandatory masks, as south-east Queensland.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said she was confident the level of testing in far north Queensland would have revealed any undetected cluster of cases.

“The highest risk contacts are negative, which is very reassuring, particularly when we’re so late in the infectious period for that reef pilot and the taxi driver,” Young said today.

The only positive test results in the last 24 hours were four people linked to the Indooroopilly cluster of schools, all of whom were in home quarantine while infectious. One of the new cases, in a household with several people already infected, tested positive on day 10 of a 14-day mandatory home quarantine period.

That cluster stands at 120 cases, with four schools still closed, and teachers and high school students now wearing masks as an added precaution.

“That cluster does continue to grow, as we expected it would, given the environments it’s been in,” Young said.

On Monday, 13,271 people were in home quarantine, but some will start to be allowed out from Wednesday – including residents of two city backpacker hostels – and “then a big batch tomorrow,” according to Deputy Premier Steven Miles.

Miles and Young urged people in home quarantine not to leave early, however, given the propensity for the Delta variant to show up in test results late in the process.

Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said people were generally complying with the rules, even in relation to wearing masks, although there was always room for improvement.

Young said she expected people to continue wearing masks “until next Sunday, if we get on top of this cluster here, and up in Cairns”.

But she said people should keep masks handy for the next outbreak – which could occur anywhere, at any time, and potentially require another lockdown – as they had proved crucial in controlling the more contagious Delta variant.

“They work, they are really, really good,” Young said, while acknowledging that as far as comfort is concerned “they’re awful – I hate them”.

Queensland has broadened the eligibility for state-administered vaccinations in recent days, for example adding teachers to the list of frontline workers, and on Tuesday opened up registrations for 16-59-year-olds wanting Pfizer.

Young said children aged 12-15, with underlying illnesses, would also be given priority through the Queensland Children’s Hospital, and repeated her call for other young people, who want AstraZeneca rather than wait for Pfizer, to speak to their GP.

Since returning from the Tokyo Olympics, and two weeks in hotel quarantine, Palaszczuk has repeatedly emphasised that, in Queensland, the Commonwealth is responsible for 70 per cent of vaccinations, through GPs and pharmacies mostly administering AstraZeneca. She today said Queensland’s vaccination rollout would continue to accelerate.

In Queensland, there have been seven COVID-19 deaths, and one person remains in intensive care from the previous cluster linked to a Portuguese centre. There are another 58 people in hospital, none in intensive care, and 92 being cared for in their homes. Young said there was no serious illness in children.

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