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What else can we do: Premier's fresh plea for lift in indigenous jabs

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A government campaign featuring indigenous sports stars and even door-to-door visits have failed to stop a rise in Covid-19 infections in Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

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The current Omicron wave sweeping the state has reached even the most remote First Nations communities, with the worst outbreaks in Yarrabah, south of Cairns, and Cherbourg near Kingaroy, where cases have reached 100 and are rising rapidly.

Authorities have expressed concern about the impact Covid is having on indigenous communities but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk insists the government has done all it can to boost vaccination rates among First Nations Queenslanders.

She said NRL stars Johnathan Thurston and Steve Renouf had been promoting vaccinations and a program of door-to-door visits was also in place.

 “I don’t know what else we can do,” she said on Friday.

“Every Queenslander has had the opportunity to get a vaccine,” she said.

Latest Commonwealth figures show just 59.7 per cent of Cherbourg’s residents have had two vaccine doses, while in Yarrabah the rate was 67.4 per cent. Statewide, the double dose vaccination rate is nearing 90 per cent.

Warning that there had been misinformation about vaccinations circulating on social media, the premier insisted that “vaccination will help prevent serious disease and the booster is an added layer”.

“I’ve heard reports of some people unvaccinated and doing a RAT test every day. That’s not going to stop you getting Covid,” she said.

Palaszczuk was speaking after announcing that another three people had died from Covid-19 in Queensland, with 23,630 new virus cases recorded just a day before the state would dump all domestic border controls.

The latest deaths come after Queensland suffered its deadliest day of the pandemic, bringing the total virus-related fatalities in the state to 21.

“Any death is a tragedy and to experience it during a pandemic is heartbreaking,” Palaszczuk said.

Two of those who died were in their seventies and one in their sixties, while all three were not vaccinated.

The 23,630 new virus cases recorded in the 24 hours to 6.30am on Friday included 10,182 rapid antigen tests.

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said there were 589 people being treated for Covid-19 in hospital on Friday with 41 in intensive care and 15 on ventilation.

It comes as the government is set to drop all domestic border controls from 1am on Saturday.

Police road border checkpoints will be dismantled and travellers will no longer have to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test.

The government initially planned to ease those restrictions when 90 per cent of eligible Queenslanders had received two vaccine doses.

The latest figures show 91.41 per cent of those eligible have had one jab and 88.18 per cent have received two.

But Dr Gerrard advised the government to make the move earlier because everyone eligible has had enough time to get the jab.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath says border police could be redirected to compliance operations, particularly to enforcing the vaccine mandate in venues and events.

“We are still wanting to make sure that only fully vaccinated people are entering those venues and those events that are more likely to see fast transmission happening,” she added.

International travel restrictions will remain in place until the state hits its 90 per cent vaccination target.

Meanwhile, supermarkets are still struggling to restock with thousands of workers isolating with Covid-19 and even more quarantining as close contacts.

The health minister said she expected stores and pharmacies would control sales of items such as paracetamol, which are in high demand.

“Now because of that I just tell some people to be sensible,” Ms D’Ath said.

“You don’t need to stockpile boxes and boxes. Think about everyone else who’s coming in, who might be unwell, who need that as well.

“It’s a bit like toilet paper – you don’t need to stock up for six months.”

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