Schoolies gets the axe, outbreak fears grow as cluster spreads to Gold Coast

The Gold Coast has again been hit by COVID-19 but this time the threat came from the north, not across the southern border.

Aug 28, 2020, updated Aug 28, 2020
There are concerns Schoolies will come to the Gold Coast, regardless of whether official events are held. Photo: ABC

There are concerns Schoolies will come to the Gold Coast, regardless of whether official events are held. Photo: ABC

After being the first region in Queensland to have cases of COVID-19, the Gold Coast is back on alert after two people at Pimpama tested positive and were in the community while infectious. An earlier Gold Coast case remains in quarantine.

Amid fears of another outbreak, the size of gatherings will be restricted to 10 people from Saturday morning – all major events associated with Schoolies celebrations will be cancelled – and precautions will also be taken at Gold Coast health, aged care, and disability services facilities. This is in line with restrictions already in place in Logan, Brisbane and Ipswich after recent clusters.

The two corrective services recruits, a 33-year-old woman and a 37-year-old man, carpooled to and from their training at Wacol, where a trainer, 60, tested positive earlier this week. The two new cases are believed to have been infected in the dining area of the centre.

A 33-year-old man who attended a course at the training centre, and lives at Forest Lake, has also tested positive, prompting Queensland Health to embark on a broader contact tracing exercise and test more people. It is not the first case in that suburb.

The four cases at the training centre are suspected to be linked to the cluster of 11 from the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre, which in turn is thought to be linked to the Logan cluster of five, sparked by people returning from Victoria with the virus.

Queensland now has 20 active cases of COVID-19 – the highest since May 10 – and a growing list of public places where people may have been put at risk. Around 20,000 tests are being conducted each day.

Victoria, the state worst hit by COVID-19, today recorded 113 new cases and 12 more deaths, taking the number of fatalities to 497. New South Wales recorded 13 new cases, the majority by local transmission, which will also justify the retention of Queensland border restrictions.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said many of the suspected linkages in south-east Queensland had not been proven. The relatively young ages of the latest cases, and mild symptoms, raised the possibility the virus was spreading more widely.

By way of example, Young said the Pimpama cases “have had symptoms for a little while” and been active on the Gold Coast.

“There’s a real risk that they’ve spread it in the community,” Young said.

In light of the renewed threat of COVID-19, gatherings in residences including holiday units will be limited to no more than 10 people state-wide from November 21 to December 11. Rules for restaurants, pubs and clubs are unchanged.

The Gold Coast will be restricted from tomorrow, putting an end to planned Schoolies mass gatherings. Young suggested school-leavers consider smaller gatherings, spaced out over a longer period of time, to mark the end of Year 12.

“I personally feel for this group, they’ve had a really difficult year,” Young said, noting many would also be denied a gap year due to travel restrictions.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said allowing Schoolies to go ahead would have put school-leavers, their friends, family, grandparents and broader community at risk. There will still be an increased police presence.

Young said Queenslanders had been dealing with the threat of COVID-19 since the first cases on the Gold Coast in January, and she acknowledged the sacrifices and stress involved.

The latest restrictions came as police dealt with people allegedly breaking the existing rules on the Gold Coast, including a massage centre worker not complying with restrictions, a man trying to escape hotel quarantine and a heavy vehicle stopped on the M1 with a false declaration.

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