Masks now mandatory in all Brisbane hospitals
Wearing masks has been made mandatory for all staff, patients and visitors across Greater Brisbane hospitals from today.
Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles announced the new rules Monday afternoon, earlier foreshadowed by Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, as part of its response to the latest coronavirus cluster linked to the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre.
All hospitals in the Greater Brisbane area are included, and the government is recommending a similar approach to other healthcare providers in the area.
Under the changes, staff will wear masks at all times while treating patients and at any time where social distancing cannot be maintained.
All patients will be required to wear a mask at all times, except when they are in their own bed.
And any visitors given an exemption to attend hospital will be required to wear a mask during their visit.
"Protecting our community is important, and now we have a stockpile of PPE including masks and gowns that our health heroes on the front line can utilise every single day," Mr Miles said.
"It is important that we continue to protect the vulnerable in our community, including those who require hospital care, and the health staff who are an integral part of our COVID-19 response."
Dr Young said until authorities were on top of the latest cluster, "it makes sense for us to take this measure".
It comes after it was announced that there has been one new case of coronavirus in Queensland in the past 24 hours, with a relative of a worker at the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre at Wacol testing positive.
The person has been in quarantine.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there were now 18 active cases in Queensland with more than 6300 tests conducted in the past 24 hours.
It comes as concerns grew over the weekend over the number of cases arising around a cluster stemming from the case of a staffer at the detention centre.
Nine new cases were announced for the state on Saturday, and two - including a baby - on Sunday.
Five workers at the centre have tested positive, along with five family members. All children at the centre have now been tested.
Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said authorities were still working on contact tracing for the new case.
"The risk is definitely there that we'll get another phase in cases," Dr Young said.
The first phase was the people connected to the centre, and the second phase was their relatives, she said.
"So we now have to be alert to the next phase which is why anyone out there who is unwell need to come forward for testing."she said.
It comes after an extensive public health alert at the weekend listed dozens of places visited by people who had tested positive.
Dr Young said anyone with symptoms should come forward for testing regardless of whether they had been to those places or not.
"We need to act promptly to be able to contain it," she said.
Dr Young said police had found the families of the 92 youths that had been released from the centre in the time authorities were concerned about.
She said police had sighted 78 of those children and authorities had tested 48 already.
"We are well on track to track down all of them. I'm really being very cautious here."
She said the spreading within family groups was why a limit on in-home gatherings had been put in place. Businesses are not affected at this stage.
"If people don't follow the COVID-Safe plans, that's when we need to consider what else we'll do," she said.
Masks are now being recommended for all patients in hospitals in Metro South, Metro North and West Moreton.
"We have enough masks to do this," she said. "So just as a precaution, I want this in place throughout facilities."
Dr Young said people should now wear masks if they could not safely socially distance.
"I think that this is the time that everyone should consider that if they can't maintain social distancing, it's time to wear a mask," she said.
She told people they should now be taking a mask with them wherever they go.
"I'm not going to mandate it because I don't believe we have broad scale community transfer," she said.
She said maintaining social distancing and washing hands were still a better protection against the virus.
Dr Young said she still did not know the origins of the latest outbreak, with genomic sequencing was still being awaited.
Acknowledging the testing numbers had not been high at the weekend, Dr Young asked anyone with symptoms to come forward for testing.
"I also suspect the weather might have had something to do with it … it was really windy," she said. "I suspect a lot of people were at home."
She said she had declared all of Brisbane and Ipswich as a hotspot.
Ahead of this morning's media conference, Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said he was worried about the weekend's developments.
"It's the largest number of community acquired cases we've had in months. We hope we're able to get on top of it like we have other recent outbreaks, but we won't know for a couple of weeks," he said.
He said that the fact the latest case was already quarantine was a relief but that the number of tests being carried out per day were not enough.
We need to test more people," he said. "It's not enough for us to feel assured that we are finding all the people out there.
"We know a lot of people … got tested in the last cluster and they might think they don't need to do it again. Please get tested again for your own sake."
Gatherings in homes have been reduced to 10 people for residents in Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan, Scenic Rim, Moreton Bay and Redlands local government areas, and to 30 people for outdoor gatherings.
Mr Miles this morning reaffirmed that the government would not limit patronage of hotels, restaurants and bars due to their COVID-safe plans, however warned that authorities would be enforcing the state's newest gathering restrictions on homes and parks.
Queensland Health also issued a public health alert with more than 40 places visited by members of the detention centre cluster. The list includes major shopping centres at Indooroopilly and Carindale.
Authorities have warned that more positive cases were likely to be uncovered in coming days as contract tracers work around the clock.
Originally published as 'Time to wear a mask': Top doctor's warning