Desperate times: Young ‘running out of ideas’ to stop Delta as Pfizer doses run low
After ordering a lockdown, Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young admits she is “running out of ideas” to contain the contagious Delta variant. And getting the right vaccine has proved difficult.
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young is worried by the threat of the Delta variant. (Supplied).
Breaches in hotel and hospital quarantine have seen the coronavirus spread in Brisbane and infected people travel interstate and to the regions. They have visited hospitals, shopping centres, tourist places, cafes, gyms, a market and even a school sporting camp, plunging much of the state into lockdown.
An unvaccinated traveller quarantined in the Prince Charles Hospital with the Delta variant somehow infected an unvaccinated receptionist working outside the COVID-19 ward. She is now known to have infected her brother, at least, and contact tracers are looking at their movements in Brisbane and travel to Townsville and Magnetic Island while infectious.
Two other new community-acquired cases recorded overnight involve the Portuguese restaurant cluster, which involves the Alpha variant, and a flight attendant who was infected by a Virgin flight attendant.
Queensland has come under fire for allowing the receptionist to work in a high-risk area while unvaccinated, and for its management of quarantine hotels. But the Palaszczuk Government has in turn blamed the Commonwealth for having too few vaccines and too many international arrivals.
While authorities have promised another crackdown in Queensland, in addition to the lockdown, Dr Young warned the Delta variant was “virtually impossible to control”. She even looked at whether a single Queensland hospital could house COVID-19 patients, but logistically had to go with five.
“I’m running out of ideas here about what we can do,” Young told journalists today.
Young said she was worried that a lot of Queensland’s 42 active cases were the Delta variant that could easily have spread further. Every day, more people arrive from overseas.
With the health system under pressure, Queensland has called for a restriction on international travel and dedicated quarantine facilities outside of populated areas.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk appeared to suggest the system could not hold.
“We are at a pressure cooker moment,” Palaszczuk said.
“We’ve got to relieve that pressure.”
Deputy Premier Steven Miles revealed the hospital patient was a frequent traveller to and from Indonesia, the worst-hit country in the region, and “allowed to come and go” by the Commonwealth despite not being vaccinated.
“Last month, 20,000 non-Australians arrived in Australia, half of those on short-term temporary visas,” Miles said.
“We have no idea how many of those people are vaccinated. We do know that many of those people will have COVID-19. The borders are not genuinely closed.”
Young said the hospital worker may not have been required to be vaccinated but should have been, and an investigation would seek to close any similar loopholes.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said that while 50 per cent of health workers had been fully vaccinated in Queensland, nationally only 16 per cent of aged care workers, and four per cent of the population overall, were protected.
Queensland Health is seeking to help the Commonwealth vaccinate vulnerable people and frontline workers, amid a surge in demand, but D’Ath said a request for more Pfizer doses had been rejected.
While Victoria was given an increase to deal with its recent outbreak, Queensland has been told to make do with its weekly supply of 64,000 doses. D’Ath said the state had eight days supply and was denied an increase of 152,000 doses.
“We weren’t offered less than what we asked for, we have been denied any extra vaccines,” D’Ath said.
D’Ath questioned whether the Commonwealth was running out of Pfizer, suggesting “maybe this is why the Prime Minister has come out and suggested under 40s get AZ”.