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Virus creep: How Delta's march towards border keeps Palaszczuk awake at night

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New South Wales has reported its largest daily increase in COVID-19 cases since the Greater Sydney outbreak began, with people now being struck down across the state. The Delta variant has already crossed borders.

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NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today confirmed another 390 locally-acquired cases in the state, at least 60 of whom were infectious in the community, with dozens of newly-infected people in regional areas.

“I anticipate, given the large number of cases we have had in the last few days, (that) unfortunately this trend will continue for at least the next few days,” Berejiklian said.

There were also two additional deaths, and 63 people in intensive care – including four in their 20s – with all but eight of those now in hospital unvaccinated.

By contrast, Queensland reported seven new community-acquired cases of COVID-19 today, all linked to the Indooroopilly cluster and in home quarantine while infectious. Health authorities are confident the Brisbane outbreak has been controlled, even if the number of cases continues to rise above 137 with people testing positive in home quarantine.

One of the new cases tested positive on day 12, and Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Jeannette Young, today said that emphasised the importance of home quarantine in controlling the outbreak.

“There is no doubt in my mind they have saved lives by what they’ve done,” Young said of more than 15,000 people sent into home quarantine in recent weeks.

While two separate lockdowns have been lifted in Queensland, and people are coming to the end of their home quarantine period– Indooroopilly State School went back today – there are concerns the methods used in NSW to contain the Greater Sydney outbreak have failed.

Berejiklian, who has sought to emphasise the importance of vaccination, will face other State and Territory leaders in a National Cabinet meeting on Friday afternoon. A key issue is whether other states will re-open borders with NSW once it reaches agreed vaccination targets, even if they haven’t.

Victoria reported 15 new cases and the Australian Capital Territory had four yesterday, as the nation’s capital joined other jurisdictions in lockdown after being virus-free for more than a year.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today said she wanted NSW to explain to National Cabinet this afternoon how it planned to stop the “virus creep”.

“The last thing we want to see this virus spread north, the virus spread south and spread across the nation,” Palaszczuk said.

“It’s absolutely imperative that New South Wales contains this virus. We wish them all the best.”

Declining to criticise the Berejiklian Government, or comment on specific NSW measures, Palaszczuk said she was very concerned “we’re seeing this virus creep north”.

In the border zone, Queensland police are enforcing travel restrictions – 192 vehicles were turned around in the last 24 hours – and Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said NSW teachers and childcare workers would no longer be allowed to cross the border to work nearby.

“We cannot risk these teachers and childcare workers coming into Queensland, going into our schools and daycare centres, and risking spreading the virus,” D’Ath said today.

“We’ve seen what this Indooroopilly cluster can do.”

Queensland is responding to a growing number of hotspot declarations and Young urged any recent travellers to ACT to heed the official advice and monitor exposure sites around Canberra.

“The ACT was one of the last places in our country that people from Queensland could easily travel to and from,” Young said.

“I think there have been a lot of travellers going to the ACT.”

Similar concerns over recent cross border travel in south-west Queensland have authorities ramping up testing and vaccinations. Just over an hour’s drive from the border, the NSW town of Walgett faces a potential crisis after the Delta variant was brought into a community with a large First Nations population at risk.

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