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Third time unlucky: Alarm raised as Queenslanders told Covid wave will stalk state for weeks

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Queenslanders are being urged to prepare now for the state’s third Covid-19 wave with hundreds of people already in hospital and predictions the peak is unlikely to arrive for weeks.

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Authorities recorded another four deaths and 5878 new cases on Tuesday, taking the state’s total to more than 39,000 active cases.

There are 18 Covid-19 patients in ICU and more than 700 in hospital, with another 105 people being treated in hospital for Influenza-A which has been sweeping across Queensland.

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said most of the Covid-19 cases were the BA4 and BA5 sub-variants, which can evade both natural and vaccine immunity, so this wave turn out to be bigger than the state’s largest in January.

He says the peak will come at the end of July or early August, or later, and place even greater pressure on hospitals.

“These sub-variants can evade immunity whether that be acquired through vaccination or natural infection,” Gerrard told reporters on Tuesday.

“It’s very likely that either you or someone you know close to you will be infected, it will be very common, so my message is it’s important to for you to prepare now, I’ll say that again: It is important for you to prepare now.”

He urged people who haven’t had a booster vaccine to get one, particularly a fourth jab for people over the age of 65 as they’re more likely to be hospitalised.

Gerrard said only half of eligible Queenslanders over the age of 65 have had a second booster, which was “very disturbing”.

“So I implore you there are two things you can do to prepare yourself today, ask yourself are you up to date with vaccination, so over the age of 65, that’s four doses,” he said.

“If you’re an adult under the age of 65 that’s three doses. That may change based on ATAGI recommendations, and I know ATAGI is reviewing the guidelines today, and we’re just waiting with interest to see whether they expand the recommendation for those fourth doses.”

The chief health officer said older Queenslanders with medical conditions should check whether they’re eligible for medications to treat Covid-19.

Gerrard ruled out ordering mask mandates or any other public health measures to deal with the upcoming wave, but he urged older Queenslanders and immunocompromised people to consider wearing a mask in crowded public places.

“I do not believe we’ll be heading back towards mask mandates,” he said.

“These waves are likely to continue off and on every few months for some time to come, it could be years, and if we keep implementing legal mandates every three months and then withdrawing them. I think that will be just divisive, and it’s not helpful and I think people will not follow them.

“So I am not not at all in favour of mask mandates at this stage.”

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath says the pressures this current wave is putting on public hospitals is leaving little to no beds available for planned care.

She said around 1200 planned beds are normally available on any given day, but 705 are occupied by people with COVID-19 and 500 are occupied by long-stay patients.

“That’s almost all of our planned care beds being taken up by two things that are outside of our control,” D’Ath said.

More than 2000 health workers are isolating or quarantining with Covid-19 more than 100 are off work with the flu.

“We have never experienced anything like this,” Dr Gerrard said.

“To have such a large number of beds occupied in a pandemic on top of influenza, this has not happened in my lifetime.

“The hospitals will cope, they will know what to do, but there will be pressure on them. There’s no way around this.”

Queensland has recorded 1278 Covid-19 deaths this year after just seven deaths over the previous two years.

 

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