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Booster jab may become compulsory as Qld records nine more deaths

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Queensland’s health minister is hopeful people will realise the importance of getting a Covid-19 booster vaccine, but believes governments are “moving closer” to mandating a third jab.

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One million boosters have been administered in the state, which recorded nine virus deaths and 16,812 new cases on Thursday.

The death toll has risen to 72, with all but seven of those deaths since domestic borders opened on December 13.

Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard said that an 18-year-old with significant underlying medical issues was among the nine deaths. The toll also includes one person in their 70s, five in their 80s, one in their 90s and one person over 100.

Dr Gerrard of the nine deaths, three were unvaccinated, five were double vaccinated and one had received a booster shot.

As of Thursday, there are 850 people in hospital with COVID-19, up from 835 the previous day and 48 in intensive care.

Dr Gerrard said when the Omicron wave peaks, it is expected that numbers in the “low thousands” will be in hospitals.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath is hopeful people realise the protection a booster gives them from Omicron, but she believes the definition of “fully vaccinated” and associated mandates will eventually change from two to three jabs.

“So I hope enough of the community, especially with what we know now about boosters, what we know about Omicron, has the sense to come forward and get vaccinated without it being mandated,” she told ABC Radio on Thursday.

“But you, know it is potential, that sometime in the future that at a national level there is an agreement to shift to a new definition of fully vaccinated to include a booster, but that should be a decision made at the national level.”

The minister is particularly concerned only one-in-three aged care residents have had a booster with most of the 56 people who have died in the current wave either unvaccinated or twice-vaccinated.

More than 100 aged care facilities in Queensland are dealing with outbreaks with the minister calling on the federal government to step in.

“I don’t understand why that would be the case when it was offered to everyone and those are the questions I want answered,” Ms D’Ath said.

Queensland is also preparing to scrap quarantine for all twice-vaccinated international travellers from 1am on Saturday.

The premier on Wednesday said overseas arrivals were more likely to catch COVID-19 in Queensland so the change won’t intensify the outbreak.

The announcement comes five days after the state ditched all domestic restrictions on double-vaccinated travellers.

While international travellers currently in hotel quarantine must still wait another two days to be released, Ms D’Ath admitted international quarantine has already been ineffective for days.

“The reality is with our domestic borders open there are already people flying in interstate and then either getting on domestic flights or jumping in cars and coming over our state border and it’s very, very hard to manage that from a policing point of view,” the minister said.

“So it’s not the best use of our resources with policing right now, and it really doesn’t reduce our risk in any significant way – now with the virus spreading throughout the community – to keep vaccinated international arrivals in quarantine.”

Quarantine will remain mandatory for unvaccinated travellers for the foreseeable future though, with the state government expected to make an announcement about the facility it’s building at Wellcamp, near Toowoomba, later on Thursday morning.

Ms D’Ath said the accommodation, medical and administrative buildings at the camp have been completed.

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