Fear of the unknown: ‘Missing link’ that has our health authorities worried

Testing, contact-tracing and advanced lab work have seemingly linked two recent clusters without finding a key piece of the puzzle.

Aug 25, 2020, updated Aug 25, 2020
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young (right), with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. (Photo: AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young (right), with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. (Photo: AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young today said the Logan cluster, started by two women who returned from Melbourne with the virus, had the same strain as the more recent Brisbane Youth Detention Centre cluster.

Young said the 77-year-old centre supervisor whose positive test last week sparked investigations was not “patient zero” in that cluster. In total, five centre staff and five of their household or family members now been found with infections

Young said she suspected transmission from the Logan cluster of five but had yet to identify the “missing link” to connect the clusters, which mostly cover areas south and west of Brisbane.

“There has to have been someone there who has been the link between the two clusters,” Young said.

“We don’t know who that person is.”

The detention centre cluster has led to a full changeover of staff and the testing of hundreds of staff and detainees or former detainees, with some results yet to be returned. Some staff at Ipswich Hospital had to be sent home to quarantine after coming into contact with an infected patient.

More resources will be allocated to testing centres in south-east Queensland to reduce delays and improve turnaround times for results, while Queensland Health now has a list of 67 sites that infected people have visited and where others may have been placed at risk.

No new cases were identified overnight. Young said it was perhaps too early to see evidence of community transmission from the 10 cases and urged Queenslanders to stay home if they are sick and get tested for COVID-19.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said authorities would do all they could to contain the virus while anxiously awaiting news of any other cases over the next 10 days.

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The recent cases have cast a shadow over Queensland’s good record on COVID-19 and may delay any further economic boost. Household gatherings have been restricted in the southeast, where masks are now being rolled out, and Queensland Health has been forced to take extra precautions ahead of a boxing event in Townsville on Wednesday to prevent COVID-19 silently spreading north and into vulnerable indigenous communities.

As Queensland government and sporting representatives hold discussions with the AFL about Brisbane potentially hosting the AFL grand final, health staff will greet passengers arriving at Townsville airport ahead of the bout between Jeff Horn and Tim Tszyu. It comes six months after the first rugby league game at the new Townsville stadium, where the bout will also be held, sparked fears of an infection risk but did not lead to any cases.

Young said the risk from the bout was minimal but she felt the need to take extra precautions and ensure no one went to the bout while sick.

“I know that those event organisers have an excellent COVIDSafe plan in place,” Young said.

“I think the risk is very, very, very low.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Brisbane was ready to host an AFL grand final – the Gold Coast is also in line to host the Brownlow Medal presentation – given its good record on COVID-19, the number of regular-season games it has hosted this year, and because “we can put on world-class events”.

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