The lockdown might be lifted, but Queensland still has 82 active coronavirus cases, and one tiny error could spell disaster.
The lockdown might be lifted, but Queensland still has 82 active coronavirus cases, and one tiny error could spell disaster.

Queensland still at ‘extraordinary risk’ with 82 cases

Dozens of overseas travellers flying into Queensland infected with highly contagious COVID-19 variants continue to put the state at "extraordinary risk" of more outbreaks, authorities say.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said she was concerned Queensland had more than 80 active cases of the pandemic virus in the state's public health system and numbers were growing.

Three recent cases have been health workers at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, a junior doctor and two nurses.

Health workers leaving Princess Alexandra Hospital. Photo: Dan Peled.
Health workers leaving Princess Alexandra Hospital. Photo: Dan Peled.

They are linked to two separate clusters involving international arrivals cared for in the hospital's Ward 5D - one who had flown in from Europe and a man who had recently returned from India.

One of the nurses had caught the virus and infected her housemate despite having one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"What I'm concerned about is the amount of virus each person has. They've got enormous amounts of virus," Dr Young said.

"We didn't see that early in the pandemic. They were different variants.

"We know the risk is extraordinary high and we are getting more and more of these extraordinarily high-risk patients in our hospitals."

Dr Young said "one tiny, tiny error" could easily lead to contamination of a health worker.

 

 

"It does worry me," she said.

Queensland has mandated that only health workers who have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine can care for patients infected with the virus.

But infectious disease physician Paul Griffin said having the vaccine did not eliminate the risk.

"Certainly, vaccinating everyone in contact with them will reduce the risk," he said.

"None of these interventions alone takes it to zero. If you add the vaccine to appropriate hand hygiene, as well as personal protective equipment … it will certainly reduce the chance of there being transmission events to the health care workers looking after them but that doesn't make the risk zero."

From Tuesday night, international arrivals into Queensland were halved from 1300 to 650 a week for the next fortnight.

 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking for that reduction to be extended until the end of April.

Of Queensland's 82 active cases of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, 68 infections were overseas acquired. Nine of Queensland's 10 latest infections were detected in hotel quarantine.

"That is a real risk for us," Ms Palaszczuk said.

Investigations have begun into the two Princess Alexandra Hospital clusters, both linked to the facility's Ward 5D, which has been closed for thorough cleaning.

The clusters resulted in a three-day lockdown of Greater Brisbane, which ended at noon today, and two consecutive days of record testing for the virus in Queensland.

In the latest 24-hour testing period, 34,711 tests were analysed for SARS-CoV-2, the state's highest numbers since the pandemic began early last year.

"The reason I can be reasonably confident that we're managing these two outbreaks is the amount of testing," Dr Young said.

However, she has kept some restrictions in place for at least a fortnight to protect the state's most vulnerable.

Aged care facilities, disability accommodation services, prisons and hospitals remain locked down, with visits only allowed for people at the end of life.

Dr Young has defended her decision, while acknowledging the huge disappointment of blocking families from seeing loved ones at Easter.

"We're not completely cleared yet," she said.

"We know that you can just have one case go into an aged care facility … and you let that one case in, they can infect nearly all those residents and we can see very high death rates.

Originally published as Living on the edge: State still at 'extraordinary risk' with 82 cases



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