Unmasked: Premier says Brisbane ‘100 per cent’ after brush with UK strain

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today said Greater Brisbane was “100 per cent” on track to be given the all-clear to remove masks and go back to pre-Christmas restrictions.

Jan 20, 2021, updated Jan 20, 2021
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says she has 'complete confidence' in the safety of vaccines. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says she has 'complete confidence' in the safety of vaccines. (AAP Image/Darren England)

An outbreak of the contagious UK strain  in a quarantine hotel, which could have had deadly consequences, now looks to have been contained.

The discovery of six cases linked to the seventh floor of the Hotel Grand Chancellor prompted a three-day lockdown in Greater Brisbane, followed by ongoing social distancing and mandatory masks in public places.

“We’ve got one more day to go, it’s all looking very positive, and we’ll be able to advise the Greater Brisbane region tomorrow whether or not those restrictions will be able to ease,” Palaszczuk said.

The news comes as Victoria continues to grapple with travellers arriving for the Australian Open. There are now 10 cases associated with the tennis event, including a player currently shedding the virus. Other players have complained about the conditions in hotel quarantine.

NSW is set to ease its restrictions next week, following a third consecutive day with no community transmission of COVID-19. Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, however, that in the wake of the northern beaches outbreak, she would expect people to still wear masks on public transport.

Young, who will only recommend masks in crowded public areas, applauded Queenslanders for rising to the challenge. Getting better at preventing the spread of COVID-19, detecting any cases that do occur, contact tracing for those at risk and responding with restrictions had put the state in a much better position, she said.

Her comments came as the Palaszczuk government continues to work on a proposal for mining camps to be used to quarantine travellers returning from overseas and also, crucially, the staff and officers required to keep them isolated.

Palaszczuk will meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is open to discussing the idea, ahead of a National Cabinet meeting on Friday.

“The reason we’re putting this proposal forward is that we’re trying to minimise the risk with this incredibly infectious UK strain,” Palaszczuk said.

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“This is not a problem unique to Queensland, it is an issue for all of Australia.”

Palaszczuk rejected, however, a proposal from federal politician Bob Katter for a run down Dunk Island resort to be rebuilt as a quarantine facility, saying it was still exposed to the cyclones that damaged the resort in the first place.

Young has said that more returned travellers have tested positive for the UK strain. There were another two cases overnight – still none in the community – however it was unclear whether they had the strain.

While praising Queensland’s response to the UK strain, and previous COVID-19 challenges, she acknowledged there could have been a disaster had the strain arrived earlier.

“At the start of pandemic, if we had that strain then, it might have been a different story,” Young said.

There is still a high rate of testing – 7,990 done in the past 24 hours – and sewage testing has picked up traces of the virus on the Gold Coast, Cairns and Mackay.

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