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Northern exposure: Final fortnight begins in blitz to lift NQ vaccination levels

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North Queensland will become a key area of focus as the health authorities start a two-week blitz to lift the state’s flagging vaccination levels.

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Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said a mass vaccination hub will open at the Cairns Convention Centre for a week from Thursday.

“It’s really important that you get vaccinated before our wet season arrives, and to help lift our statewide vaccination rate before the borders open,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.

There will also be a pop-up clinic at the Cairns Central Shopping Centre from Saturday, while Townsville residents will soon be able to get their COVID jab at new locations across the city including the Strand night markets.

Seven new pop-up clinics will soon open in Townsville as part of the government’s push to get North Queenslanders vaccinated before Christmas.

The Premier will visit Townsville Wednesday as part of her government’s vax-a-thon week across the state, encouraging Queenslanders to get protected against COVID-19.

“We need North Queenslanders to get vaccinated,” the Premier said.

“This week we released our roadmap to reopening and we don’t want North Queenslanders to get left behind.

“This is a critical time, we can’t keep delta out forever and with the borders reopening in December, we need everyone to get vaccinated now to make sure they are fully protected when they do open.”

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young says it’s unavoidable the virus will be everywhere once travel rules normalise.

She has implored Queenslanders to get their first jab in the next 12 days. That will give them enough time to have their second shot and develop full protection before they are surrounded by the virus.

“Every single Queenslander is going to get exposed to the COVID-19 virus, and we’ll get infected, but if you’re vaccinated, that’s not a problem,” she has warned.

“You’re very unlikely to get unwell, very unlikely you’re going to end up in hospital.”

The government will open up the state in two stages, something that has cash-starved tourism operators thrilled.

From November 19, fully vaccinated travellers will be allowed in by air, but must home quarantine for two weeks and test negative before arriving.

That changes significantly from December 17, when fully vaccinated travellers can come by air and road without having to quarantine, although they must still test negative before arrival.

Once Queensland’s vaccination rate reaches 90 per cent there will be no entry restrictions or quarantine requirements for travellers, domestic or international.

Virgin Australia says website traffic surged on Monday after the premier detailed the reopening plan.

The airline recorded a 134 per cent increase in overall bookings. Among the most popular flights booked were those between Brisbane and Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Melbourne, and the Sunshine Coast and Melbourne.

But the Brisbane Airport Corporation is worried about Queensland’s rules for international arrivals and fears it will deter airlines from ramping up inbound flights.

Until the state hits its 90 per cent vaccination target, people coming from overseas will still have to spend two weeks in either hotel or home quarantine.

That’s more than what NSW and Victoria require and beyond what’s in the national plan, which allows for uncapped inbound arrivals for vaccinated travellers, without quarantine, once Australia hits 80 per cent of double doses.

“BAC is deeply concerned that this will see international airlines exit the Queensland market for interstate destinations where they can operate without the profit-killing impost of passenger caps,” it said.

“It would be an absolute tragedy, as it would take several years and significant investment to try and recover these airlines and services.”

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