Chaos as COVID hits regional Qld
A woman in Bundaberg linked to the Byron Bay hen's party Covid outbreak yesterday tested positive to the virus as regional Queensland struggled under the pressure of the growing cluster.
The latest case sent shudders through the Wide Bay region with early reports suggesting the case was in Hervey Bay as residents there stripped bare a supermarket toilet paper aisle.
Other towns including Gladstone and Rockhampton were also on high alert with testing facilities forced to close early as queues stretched for hundreds of metres.
Further north, residents sweltering in the tropical humidity were for the first time forced to wear masks.
Lax health protocols were also exposed yesterday when it was revealed that a COVID-positive man had to beg to be tested after he was told the only fever clinic was already closed.
The man attended the Gladstone Hospital after being made aware he was a close contact to a positive case.
"I was shocked and my heart sank instantly, I told everyone involved what was happening and went to Gladstone Hospital by myself masked up immediately," the man said.
It was the response of staff at the hospital that nearly allowed the man to return back into the community while infectious, prompting him to demand an on the spot test.
"I explained my story in the emergency room and they told me to return Monday as the fever clinic had closed at 11.30am and was shut on Sunday," he said.
"I pressed my point and explained the urgency and demanded one on the spot. One to two hours later, I had one given to me in the car park and was sent back to mum and dads to isolate awaiting results."
A Queensland Health spokesman said anyone who was a close contact should immediately declare that when they present for testing.
"We're asking for people visiting our centres, to please be patient and if presenting to an ED or GP please call ahead," the spokesman said.
The incident came to light as Gladstone residents yesterday queued at testing clinics for hours, with one local stating she had waited in line at the drive through clinic from 8.30am until after 1pm to be tested.
The woman said the staff were "run off their feet, doing the best they can".
"At least now they have port-a-loos here for people to use.
"Please be patient people and (be) prepared to wait for hours."
Another Gladstone local was organising for food and coffee to be dropped to nurses and police officers at the testing clinic on Blain Dr.
Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett said locals should call CQ Health to make an appointment for a test or expect to wait in "extremely long lines".
Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour said lines at Hervey Bay and Maryborough were long, but showed the community were doing the right thing.
"The testing sites are very, very busy which is good, because that's one of the key weapons in combating this," Cr Seymour said.
"People are responding very well to the mask mandate, this is the first time people on the Fraser Coast have had to wear face masks this year … People understand that public safety is the most important thing."
Images yesterday emerged online of empty shelves across the regions, including a picture taken in the toilet paper aisle at one Hervey Bay grocery store.
The mad dash to the shops comes as the Premier urges residents to stop panic buying, and some stores impose shopping limits.
Originally published as Chaos as COVID hits regional Qld