Greater Brisbane will be on lockdown for three days as authorities scramble to contain the spread of the UK mutant COVID-19 strain after a hotel quarantine worker tests positive.
Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that the greater Brisbane area, which includes the parishes of Brisbane, Logan, Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands, will be closed from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Monday.
Residents need to stay at home, except for four main reasons: they need to go near them for important work, health care, shopping, and exercise.
Anyone who has been to Brisbane since January 2 and has now moved to other parts of the state or country must also be quarantined for the next three days.
Two visitors are allowed to visit homes during this time, but non-essential businesses must be closed.
A maximum of 20 people are present at funerals and weddings over the next three days.
Community sports were also suspended in the greater Brisbane area for the next three days.
Ms. Palaszczuk admitted that these three days would be « tough » for everyone, including local businesses.
« If you are in these areas and you have a vacation planned for this weekend, I am sorry but you will not be able to go, » said the Prime Minister.
She said she will « go hard and early » to stop the spread of this « incredibly contagious virus ».
« It’s going to be tough for everyone in these three days. What we are currently seeing in the UK and other places around the world is the high rate of infection from this particular strain, » Ms. Palaszczuk said.
« If we are to stop the spread of this infectious tribe, this British tribe, we must act immediately, we must act strongly. »
« You can go outside to … your most important work … You can leave the house if you are providing medical care or assistance to a vulnerable person … making important purchases or playing sports in your neighborhood. »
Jeannette Young, chief health officer, said the British strain is 70 percent more contagious and « we know the extreme difficulty the UK has had in controlling this strain ».
Dr. Young said the woman did not go to a cafe or restaurant during the time she was contagious and the restrictions were put in place to locate the woman’s close contacts.
Dr. Young said until contract tracers were able to find every contact of the cleaner that tested positive Wednesday, Queenslanders couldn’t afford to relax.
She urged people in the Greater Brisbane area not to visit the elderly unless they could provide the necessary care.
« If you were normally caring for a vulnerable person, think about the risks, » she said.
Residents were urged not to panic as all stores were full and urged not to buy big.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said it was better to keep the lockdown over three days now rather than over a period of weeks.
She said any delay could have catastrophic consequences as she pointed out the ongoing cases in the UK.
Ms. D’Ath said the British variant had spread around the world and 38 percent of all positive cases in the UK occurred in the last month, meaning the strain is incredibly contagious.
« If we wait until Monday afternoon in three days, we don’t want to stand here and say, if only, » she said.
The cleaner who lives in Algester did a shift last Saturday in the inner-city Hotel Grand Chancellor, during which four cases of coronavirus were recently discovered in quarantine.
Health alerts were issued yesterday for Algester and the nearby suburbs of Sunnybank, Sunnybank Hills and Calamvale as authorities sought close contacts.
Jeannette Young, chief health officer, announced that hospitals, elderly care facilities and accommodation centers for the disabled will be banned from visiting after the positive test.
Queenslanders have already responded to calls for increased testing. More than 13,000 have been registered in the past 24 hours.
Bans on visitors will be imposed on hospitals, elderly care facilities and disabled shelters after a Brisbane woman tests positive for the UK’s highly contagious strain of coronavirus.
Jeannette Young, Chief Health Officer, confirmed that she would act « quickly and decisively » to protect « vulnerable » facilities.
It came after health officials revealed that a cleaner who worked in hotel quarantine and was commended by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for doing everything right tested positive for the virus.
« We are being very careful about this as we now know for sure that this person has the UK variant of the virus, » said Dr. Young.
Dr. Young said visitor restrictions would be imposed on elderly care facilities, hospitals, handicapped and correctional facilities in the hospitals and health services of Metro North, Metro South and West Moreton.
« And as always, anyone with symptoms should immediately report for testing and isolate until they get the results – especially everyone in Brisbane, » she said.
« The Eight Mile Plains Community Health Center testing clinic will remain open all night. Please consider this location for testing tonight. »
The woman, who lives in Algester on the south side of Brisbane, was on a shift at the inner-city Hotel Grand Chancellor on Saturday, where four cases of coronavirus were recently discovered in quarantine, including one with the mutated British variant.
Health warnings have been issued for Algester and the nearby suburbs of Sunnybank, Sunnybank Hills and Calamvale while authorities look for close contacts.
Queensland Health is partnering with TransLink to access Go Card data and CCTV footage from Altandi and Roma Street stations in Brisbane on Saturday that were visited by cleaning staff to drive to work.
The woman’s case sparked a new shift-by-shift saliva testing system for hotel quarantine workers in Queensland, starting on Monday, replacing the existing weekly testing process.
Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk has praised the woman for « doing everything right » after testing positive on Wednesday evening after an earlier negative result on December 29th.
Their chief health officer Jeannette Young said it was « critical » for anyone in Queensland, especially those who live in Brisbane, to get tested for the virus, if they develop symptoms at all.
« We know this is a very contagious virus and we know it can escape, » said Dr. Young. « That has happened in several other locations across the country.
Queensland Health has opened more fever clinics on the south side of Brisbane, and private pathology providers QML and SNP have extended their test center opening hours to meet the expected increase in demand.
The cleaner is believed to have been infectious for five days before testing positive after symptoms appeared on Wednesday.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said there will be a review of the state’s hotel quarantine processes to see if further measures could be taken to improve them.
« If you receive any of these cases … we will immediately review all that person’s practices, movements, any contact that person has with any of the positive cases or any of the rooms where the positive cases have been moved to the hospital, » she said.
When the National Cabinet was due to meet on Friday to discuss the UK variant, Ms. D’Ath set up a discussion on whether international travelers should be tested for the virus before boarding their flights to Australia and whether masks are mandatory on domestic routes should.
« We particularly need to look at people arriving from overseas on these international flights, what else we can do to prevent the infection from reaching our coast, » Ms. D’Ath said.
The woman’s case came when Ms. D’Ath said the Queensland border restrictions in the Greater Sydney area would be extended until at least the end of the month.
Dr. Young claimed that in the greater Sydney area it would be 28 days before the border with capital NSW reopened.
Ms. Palaszczuk urged Queenslanders to reconsider trips to NSW and Victoria in light of the ongoing outbreaks in the southern states.
« I know this is very disappointing to people at this time, but we are still concerned about the greater Sydney area, » she said of the ongoing border closure.
Ms. Palaszczuk said there had already been a review of the hotel quarantine by the national cabinet to ensure that « strict measures » were in place.
« As I’ve always said, you have to keep taking these tough measures, and like Dr. Young said, this woman (the cleaning lady) did everything right, » she said.
The prime minister insisted that Queensland cope with the arrival of hotel quarantines and said the state had not succumbed to pressure to increase the number of international arrivals in the Sunshine State.
The cleaner’s case is the first to be linked to a hotel quarantine worker in Queensland, despite the state handling nearly 60,000 people in hotel quarantine during the pandemic.
« Hotel workers or contractors may have multiple jobs or work in multiple locations with the same employer – that’s often the nature of the industry, » said a Queensland Health spokesman.
« Hotel workers or contractors are not employed or hired by Queensland Health, but by individual companies. »
Queensland recorded two new cases of the pandemic virus on Thursday, including a girl under 10 who tested positive in hotel quarantine after returning from the UK.
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