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Queensland frets about hospital readiness when Delta variant hits

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Vaccinations must be offered to every eligible Queenslander before it considers opening up as the state rings alarm bells on what a COVID-19 outbreak will do to the health system without more federal support.

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A further push to increase vaccination rates for vulnerable groups including aboriginal communities and people with disabilities was still needed, but it was only part of the equation, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

“There’s another big part to this story and that is to make sure that the hospitals can deal with the capacity, because when delta comes in it will spread like wildfire,” she said on Friday.

“There is no use rushing, we need to make sure we get the people vaccinated and the hospitals prepared, and until you do both of those it would be irresponsible to put the whole country at risk.”

States are asking for the 50-50 funding agreement with the Commonwealth to manage the pandemic to continue, Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said on Friday.

“We are all trying to plan for the future beyond lockdowns and restrictions and how we live with COVID, and we can’t do it on our own, the Commonwealth needs to support us on this,” she said.

Queensland had two new locally acquired COVID-19 cases amid five separate outbreaks one day after imposing stage-two restrictions on six local government areas in the southeast and Townsville.

One is a man linked to the aviation cluster who was infectious on the southern Gold Coast this week while staying at the Iconic Kirra Beach Resort with his family.

The second is a man who works relocating animals interstate, who tested positive in NSW and was only infectious on the Gold Coast one day.

Palaszczuk said restrictions did not need to be tightened any further in six local government areas in the southeast and Townsville as there was still no evidence of community transmission.

“If we do see any unlinked community transmission, I’m quite sure that Dr Young will not hesitate to recommend a lockdown,” Palaszczuk told reporters on Friday, referring to Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young.

“That’s good news for the moment, Queensland. So keep up that great work.”

The premier again denied she was resisting ordering a lockdown because of the NRL grand final in Brisbane on Sunday and the Rugby Championship double header on the Gold Coast on Saturday night.

She said if there is evidence of seeding or community spread before either of those events she will tighten restrictions.

The comments come as the state welcomes the northern NSW town of Walgett back into the border zone from 1am on Saturday, while stay-at-home orders in Kyogle in the Northern Rivers region mean tighter movement restrictions will be in place.

Queensland has set up a border bubble for 17 local government areas in NSW allowing residents who have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to cross the border for work, education, caregiving, or shopping for essential items.

However, if an LGA is ordered into lockdown, Queensland restricts travel to only certain essential workers who have had one jab.

Six border zone politicians, as well as Gurmesh Singh, whose electorate of Coffs Harbour is not in the bubble, have written to Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles asking him to guarantee interstate travel for border zone residents once NSW reopens.

“It would be a travesty if Australians can travel overseas but cannot travel interstate,” they wrote.

“We ask the Queensland government to give us this certainty and commit to keeping our border open.”

The MPs said their constituents had suffered almost 18 months of uncertainty, with the past few months of open-and-shut borders especially difficult for residents who lived and work across the two states.

“We write to you in the hope that we can quickly resolve this crisis and restore our community, which has been divided for the first time since Federation,” they wrote.

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