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Health chief: Partying to catch Covid 'utterly ridiculous' as hospital admissions top 500

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The State’s chief health officer has labelled so-called Covid-19 parties “utterly ridiculous” as Queensland stands at the brink of a “tough” and “tense” few weeks amid the peak of the Omicron variant.

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Dr John Gerrard forecast many more hospital admissions and “significantly more” people in intensive care units across the State.

The warning comes as the State recorded 20,566 new cases of the COVID-19 virus on Tuesday, double the previous day’s total, and announced one death.

A man in his 70s, with significant other medical problems, succumbed to the virus in a nursing home.

Dr Gerrard and Health Minister Yvette D’Ath both blasted the concept of Covid parties, held for people to catch the virus and supposedly garner immunity.

“I have read about these Covid parties. They are utterly ridiculous. There is one way to get immunity to this virus and that is vaccination.

“They are ridiculous. So please stop them.”

D’Ath said the parties were reckless and irresponsible.

Gerrard said that there were now 502 people in hospital with the virus, 27 of them in intensive care, six of whom are ventilated. This is up from 419 hospital admissions on Monday and 21 in ICU.

The figures include 12 children in hospital with Covid-19 and one in ICU.

Gerrard said things will get much worse before they get better.

“The next few weeks is going to be tense in the health service as we see numbers rise. They will rise,” he said, adding that the plateau of cases in the hospitals would be a week or so after the plateau was reached in the community.

“I think we are doing reasonably well but the next three weeks will be tough. There will be a lot of people admitted to hospital. There will be significantly more intensive care unit admissions than we are seeing now.

“We are expecting a short, sharp peak.”

Gerrard predicted a “very substantial increase in hospital admissions” in late January and early February. Most would be in the moderately unwell range and others would require oxygen for a few days and require intermediate care.

“There will be substantially more intensive care admissions than the (current) 27.”

But despite the dire warnings, Gerrard urged Queenslanders to keep living as normal.

“I think we should continue our lives as normal. That is our plan, that is our way forward. What is happening here is inevitable,” he said.

He said notable exceptions to this were the unvaccinated, the immune-compromised and the elderly, who should all avoid going out into crowded areas until the peak subsides.

“I don’t think we should be allowing our lives to be disrupted too much by this virus,” Gerrard said. “There is nothing mystical or magical about it. It is just another respiratory virus”, he said, adding that anxiety would settle and that it was currently anxiety of the unknown.

Tourists on the Gold Coast have been warned to start wearing masks or cop a fine.

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll, speaking in Maryborough on Tuesday, said it was mostly visitors on the Gold Coast who were flouting mask rules, not locals.

“Disappointingly what we have found on the Gold Coast is a lot of people are not wearing masks so we have run a lot of operations over the entire Gold Coast,” Carroll said.

She said it was predominantly visitors who were going maskless.

“Please wear your mask. If it is blatant disregard, you will be fined … wear your masks otherwise you will be fined,” Carroll said.

And anyone holding parties and blatantly disregarding police directives would also be fined, she said.

Carroll said police were currently handing out 200-300 masks per day on the Gold Coast and this should not be the case.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said authorities were particularly concerned about the virus spread on the Gold Coast, where a lot of people are now ending up in hospital and in intensive care.

“What we want to see is more people on the Gold Coast wearing masks. Just because you are on holiday doesn’t mean you can’t get Covid,” Palaszczuk said.

On Monday it was revealed that the Gold Coast, lagging behind in vaccination rates, was bearing the brunt of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Of the 419 people in hospital on Monday, 101 of them were on the Gold Coast. And of the 11 people in ICU on the coast, six were unvaccinated and suffering severe Covid type pneumonia, akin to the symptoms which killed so many in the early days of the virus, before vaccination were available.

Palaszczuk also batted away criticism from the Prime Minister of the State’s plan to delay the school return by two weeks to enable children to be vaccinated and for the State to get past the expected peak of the Omicron wave, expected in late January.

Scott Morrison has questioned whether the plan, so far only happening in Queensland, risks extending the Omicron wave.

“We have acted on health advice. I always act on health advice,” Palaszczuk said.

And she said parents she had spoken with had expressed thanks for the delay.

Meanwhile, the Queensland Opposition has called for the state government to provide support for COVID-hit small businesses, saying they have been left to “wither on the vine”.

Liberal National Party leader David Crisafulli says owners and operators across the state were losing hope during the “lockdown you have when you are not having a lockdown”.

Mr Crisafulli said small businesses were now battling due to the “double whammy” of a lack of patronage and staff shortages brought on by COVID-19.

The government last weekend relaxed some virus restrictions, announcing close contacts would be allowed out of isolation to work if their job is critical for food supply or emergency services.

But Crisafulli said the government must either ease close contact rules for small businesses as well, or provide a compensation package.

On Tuesday, New South Wales recorded 25,870 new cases and 11 deaths while Victoria has recorded 37,994 cases and 13 deaths.

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