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Donuts now, but close contacts may have to identify themselves

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Before this week, people who were close contacts of someone with COVID-19 could expect a call or message from Queensland Health. Now, they should be prepared to find out themselves.

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Health Minister Yvette D’Ath today confirmed another “double donut day” of zero locally-acquired and overseas-acquired COVID-19 cases in Queensland.

The recent Beenleigh mini-cluster is now under control, so in the Logan area visitors will again be allowed into hospitals, aged care and disability services facilities.

Restrictions remain along the Queensland-NSW border, although people with exemptions are again being allowed into hotel quarantine. Yet the State Government expects the Delta variant to still cause a large-scale outbreak at some point, and has been encouraging Queenslanders to get vaccinated before it does.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has quietly rewritten the directions for close contacts and secondary contacts, with the updated versions published on the Queensland Health website on Sunday.

The Queensland Health website is now required reading in the event of an outbreak. (Supplied)

While the home isolation, travel and testing obligations for people identified as contacts is largely the same, how they come to be identified as such has changed – and may provide a glimpse of how things will operate in a large-scale outbreak.

For example, for close contacts – those most at risk of contracting COVID-19 – the previous order outlined how they “may be informed in writing or orally” but the updated version adds the words “or through notification on the Queensland Government website”.

“Notification from the Queensland Government may be through SMS, email or telephone call or through contact tracing alerts published on the Queensland Government website,” the order states.

With heavy penalties for those who do not comply with the obligations, the onus is now on individuals to stay informed. If they don’t, they not only risk being fined, but potentially becoming infected or infecting others. That essentially allows Queensland Health to share the burden of ensuring people isolate to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The change came as NSW Health struggled to contact, notify and isolate people in the state’s worsening outbreak, and even stopped reporting all exposure sites.

A Queensland Health spokesman said the change reflected “what already may occur during times of large outbreaks, like the Indooroopilly cluster that saw almost 20,000 contacts”.

“Our contact tracers are extremely busy during outbreaks,” the spokesman said.

“In these times, the sheer volume of contacts may mean only those considered ‘high risk’ will be contacted individually. Other contacts may be contacted by SMS or email.

“During outbreaks, the public are always kept well informed about locations that COVID-19 positive cases have been to and advised to check exposure sites and follow the health advice online. If anyone has any concerns or questions, they can always contact 134 COVID for advice.

“We praise Queenslanders for doing the right thing to protect the community – whether that’s following advice on the website or through direct contact with a Public Health Unit.”

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