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Covid crawl: Coast in firing line but low jab rates pose threat to border opening

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Fears are rising that the Gold Coast’s “lagging” vaccination rates could potentially delay the removal of border blockades and opening up of the state with no restrictions, as pop-up clinics are being added to surf clubs and theme parks to bolster local jab rates.

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Gold Coast Police Acting Chief Superintendent Rhys Wildman, who is also the local district disaster co-ordinator, said the Gold Coast remained on the front line of the battle to keep the pandemic in check, but vaccination rates remained sluggish.

Wildman’s comments today come even after the Super Saturday vaccination blitz, where local Gold Coast schools joined more than 100 schools across the state that opened as jab sites in a push to ramp up vaccinations.

Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner and state vaccines co-ordinator, Shane Chelepy, said nearly 28,000 jabs were administered by Queensland Health on Super Saturday, including 13,500 at 113 schools. Queensland also officially hit the 60 per cent double dose vaccination on Saturday.

Chelepy urged Gold Coasters not to wait until next weekend’s push to get vaccinated. “The school experience was great, the Bunnings experience was great,” Chelepy said.

“We know our surf lifesaving clubs are very active and a lot of people rely on our surf lifesaving clubs, so it’s great they are coming on board with us this weekend.”

Queensland recorded zero new COVID-19 cases in the community or in hotel quarantine among 5783 tests in the 24 hours to 6.30am on Monday.

Wildman told ABC Gold Coast there was still no projected date when police could pack away border controls.

Unrestricted travel is reliant on 90 per cent of the eligible Queensland population being fully vaccinated.

At 80 per cent vaccination rate, projected for 17 December or earlier, people will still need to prove they are vaccinated or have returned a negative Covid test within the past 72 hours if they are arriving from a hotspot.

“We are lagging, we are really lagging here on the Gold Coast,” Wildman said.

“South of us they are at 90 per cent, up in Brisbane they are going really well as well. Here on the Gold Coast, we are being sandwiched. We are at risk.

“We are exposed in bringing this virus in and people getting ill.”

Wildman said Gold Coast’s vaccination rate remained low despite being on the frontline of the fight to keep the pandemic in check and ground zero for frustrations over closed borders.

Before Super Saturday, 156,000 people on the Gold Coast 16 and over were not vaccinated.

Long delays and congestion remained on the border this morning as police struggled to deal with the increasing number of people coming into Queensland.

More people are able to cross into Queensland for work as long as they can prove they are vaccinated.

A record 16,000 vehicle came through the border crossing on Friday.

“It is the vaccination rates in northern NSW and that is the game changer,” Wildman said.

“Tweed and Byron heading up into the 80 to 90 percentiles of first vaccination and 70 to 80 per cent of second vaccinations. They’ll be very well vaccinated in the coming weeks.

“What that means is that a lot more people are coming across for work purposes into southern Queensland. We will see more and more people coming into Queensland in the coming months.”

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said new pop-up clinics would be in place from Friday to Sunday at Movie World, Sea World, Dream World, Aussie World, Australia Zoo and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.

While the aim is to target tourist locations across the state, local Gold Coasters are also being urged to pick up their vaccination pace.

“We know there is not a one size fits all approach to get people vaccinated, and we need to offer various options and locations as the rollout progresses to reach as much of the community as possible,” Miles said.

 

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