Queensland health authorities are monitoring a number of Covid-19 threats as the state scrambles to avoid joining Australia’s eastern states in lockdown.
Chief health officer Jeannette Young has previously warned one new case of the highly infectious Delta variant would trigger stay-at-home orders, with her team monitoring for community transmission in the state’s southeast.
On Thursday, a 46-year-old truck driver from an area between Gold Coast and Brisbane emerged as a new local case who had been infectious in the community for a number of days.
A four-year-old girl and her mother, both close contacts of the man, were revealed as new local cases on Friday night and Sunday respectively, sparking fears of community spread at a childcare centre and school.
Health authorities were also monitoring for spread from two low-risk cases who were in Queensland but are now interstate — a truck driver from NSW and a Qantas pilot from Kingaroy.
A number of exposure sites have now been listed, and people who visited those sites are ordered to get tested, contact Queensland Health and isolate for 14 days regardless of the test result.
Young said on Sunday she was “very concerned” about community infection because her team were yet to track down all the contacts of the 46-year-old truck driver, and expressed particular anxiety for the Stylish Nails nail salon.
“It hasn’t got worse but I’m still concerned about the people who attended that nail salon last Monday,” the top doctor said. “We still don’t have their details and I’m concerned about them. I need them to come forward because it’s quite a large nail salon.”
The infected pilot may have been infectious in the community, including travelling to Hong Kong and returning home via Melbourne.
Young said the Qantas pilot lived on an isolated cattle property in Kingaroy, and so far his wife and two children had tested negative.
The man travelled from his home to Brisbane where he saw his mother, who has been tested but Young said she did not yet have the result.
He then travelled to Brisbane Airport, flew to Hong Kong, then arrived in Melbourne where he tested positive.
“We’re waiting on the whole genome sequence result from Victoria as to whether he acquired that in Queensland because part-time he works as a freight driver and had been down in Tamworth on the August 20,” Young told reporters on Sunday.
“We’re trying to work out whether he acquired it in Tamworth or in NSW, or [if] he acquired it in Hong Kong, because that will change the risk profile.”
Victoria has recorded 246 new local cases of Covid-19 – the highest number of daily infections the state has seen during the current outbreak.
Of the new local cases, the source of 125 cases are still under investigation.
Despite the worsening outbreak, Victorians could be enjoying eased lockdown rules sooner than originally thought due to impressive vaccination uptake.
Last week, Premier Daniel Andrews announced when 70 per cent of the population has received one dose of the vaccine then modest eased restrictions could be brought in.
This was initially due to happen on September 23 but with vaccination rates ramping up, the rules could be eased earlier. 37.6 per cent of the eligible population is now fully vaccinated, while 60.3 per cent have had their first dose.
With Victoria seeing a spike in Covid-19 cases in the past few days, there are concerns the state could be on the same trajectory as NSW.
On Saturday, chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton admitted there was “every possibility” Victoria was following in the footsteps of its northern neighbour.
“I think a lot of people are a bit concerned now that we’re on the same trajectory as Sydney and we’re maybe three or four weeks behind Sydney,” Sutton said.
“I mean, we could be. That is a scenario. There’s every possibility that we’re following a slow and steady increase in the way that NSW has.”
Andrews warned last week that cases would continue to rise as he announced the state was moving away from an elimination strategy and instead focusing on vaccination rates.
Over the weekend, Sutton said it was still unclear when the state’s infections would peak.
“The trend over seven-day periods has been incremental increasing and I expect that to happen until we get higher vaccination coverage,” he said.
More than one in 10 people in New South Wales diagnosed with Covid-19 now require hospitalisation.
According to the latest NSW Health figures, the current hospitalisation rate for the embattled state is 11 per cent for the past seven days.
And with a “peak in cases” looming in the current weeks, there are growing fears the system will struggle to cope in the weeks ahead.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned that the peak of the outbreak will come in October, and that will put even greater strain on the state’s health system.
“All the modelling indicates to us that the peak is likely to be here in the next week or two, and the peak in hospitalisation and intensive care is likely to be with us in October,” Berejiklian said.
Greater Sydney residents have now entered their 11th week in lockdown, and the outbreak shows no sign of slowing.
The number of Covid-infected children in NSW has climbed to 2000, and a baby and a child aged under 10 have been placed on ventilators in a Sydney intensive care unit.
The infant is believed to be one of the youngest children with Covid ever treated in an ICU in Australia.
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