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Govt feared Covid would devastate indigenous communities. Now it's keeping those numbers secret

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The State Government is not giving out specific figures of the number of Covid-19 deaths in First Nations communities.

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Whilst the total number of deaths across Queensland is announced each day, there is little breakdown apart from ages and vaccination status.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said on Thursday the decision not to announce First Nations deaths was made after requests from their families.

But they are included in the daily totals.

“No we haven’t been reporting these daily because the families have specifically asked us not to identify them and we respect the cultural needs of not recognising any particular individual … these families have asked us not to do that,” D’Ath said.

She was responding to a question, at the daily Government Covid-19 press conference, about why details of the number of First Nations people who have lost their lives, are not being identified.

“There will definitely be a time where we say how many but at the moment we don’t want to on a daily basis be recognising that and not showing respect to their culture,” D’Ath said.

“They are absolutely included in the total figures, we are jut not breaking these figures down.

D’Ath said she continued to be worried about low vaccination rates amongst some First Nations communities.

She gave a shout out to the many people helping authorities to get the vaccination message out to First Nations peoples, including mayors in remote communities who had helped the process.

D’Ath’s comments came as the State recorded 15 new Covid-19 deaths and 11,600 new cases of the virus.

In good news, the hospitalisation rate has not hit the thousands which the Government initially believed would happen as the Omicron variant swept the state in the wake of the border reopening in December.

Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard said hospitalisation rates were now falling, not rising as initially anticipated and he was now becoming more optimistic the State would not reach the “multiples of thousands” in hospitals.

On Thursday there were 829 people in Queensland hospitals, down from 889 on Wednesday and 928 on Tuesday. Dr Gerrard said most of the falls had been on the Gold Coast which had already reached its peak of the Omicron variant.

The Greater Brisbane and South East Queensland regions, are currently approaching the peak.

Gerrard admitted he was feeling more optimistic as days go by.

“The projections for what we were expecting to see look like they probably won’t eventuate. I don’t want to jump the gun, I don’t want to jinx (it),” he said.

Gerrard said Queensland’s widespread vaccination rates before the virus entered the State were the reason for the good news.

“There is no jurisdiction in the world that is doing as well as Queensland at the moment but it is not over yet,” Gerrard said.

“Let’s not jump the gun yet, we are not there yet.”

And Dr Gerrard said the tail end of the current wave was likely to go on for some time yet, adding it was not quite as simply as equating it with the flu.

He said things were different than in 2020.

“This is a very different pandemic to the 2020 pandemic,” Gerrard said.

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