‘In hand’: Tight grip on 1000 families to contain latest Delta outbreak

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has praised a Sunnybank school community for helping prevent the spread of COVID-19. Two more students have tested positive but remain in home quarantine.

Sep 13, 2021, updated Sep 13, 2021
Health care workers are seen testing people at a pop-up COVID-19 testing centre at St Thomas More College in the suburb of Sunnybank in Brisbane, Saturday, September 11, 2021. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Health care workers are seen testing people at a pop-up COVID-19 testing centre at St Thomas More College in the suburb of Sunnybank in Brisbane, Saturday, September 11, 2021. (AAP Image/Darren England)

The students, aged 15-16, are being supported at home, and are among 1,000 families at St Thomas More College at Sunnybank now in home quarantine to contain the cluster.

Police are investigating whether essential workers given an exemption to enter Queensland sparked the outbreak after a visit to a Moorooka household where several family members have been infected.

NSW today reported 1257 new local cases and Victoria 473, with lingering concerns in Queensland over the prospect of interstate travellers, particularly truck drivers, bringing the virus north.

The unexpected diagnosis of a Sunnybank schoolgirl last week sparked a 14-day lockdown for the entire school community, and a ban on visitors to aged care and disability services facilities that will only be lifted today.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said she was confident the cluster was now “in hand,” with no requirement yet for a lockdown, but noted the list of exposure sites would be extended due to one of the cases reported today.

“One of them did have a short period of time infectious in the community before they went into home quarantine,” Young said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said home quarantine had proved valuable in preventing the contagious Delta variant from “seeding” in the broader community.

“We are thanking you for doing the right thing for Queensland,” Palaszczuk said.

“We saw how well it worked in the Indooroopilly cluster when everything did the right thing.”

Some 20,000 people were in home quarantine during the peak of the Indooroopilly cluster, and Young has gone so far as to suggest they were more compliant than people in similar circumstances interstate.

Under normal arrangements, people in home quarantine may be contacted by health, police or government officials to check on their welfare, provide advice on testing and other aspects of the process, and help with contact tracing.

But arrangements established to help returning boarding school students quarantine at home are must more onerous, and may help determine whether tougher requirements are needed for everyone ordered into isolation in Queensland.

Palaszczuk last week downplayed the prospect of Queensland following South Australia’s lead and requiring facial recognition software to also be used for quarantine compliance. Over the weekend, Young issued a direction allowing Queensland Health to conduct text message compliance checks, starting with boarding students but extending to potentially all people in home quarantine.

Under the boarding students trial, Queensland Health will send text messages at random times with a link for people to register their location, using geolocation on their devices to confirm their whereabouts. Anyone who fails to respond to messages within 10 minutes, without a reasonable excuse, will be subjected to a compliance visit by an emergency officer and may be transferred to hotel quarantine – where they would otherwise have been, if not for the trial – for the remainder of their quarantine period.

Parents also have the added responsibility of verifying the whereabouts of their children as Queensland Health seeks to lock down the home quarantine requirements.

From today, Queensland will open up to COVID-19 vaccine bookings for children as young as 12, after modelling showed they would need to be protected from the worst of the disease and be made less likely to carry the virus.

Palaszczuk welcomed other jurisdictions examining the impact on the under-12s, an issue she raised as reason to question opening up Australia when 80 per cent of eligible people have been vaccinated.

“This was why I was attacked,” Palaszczuk said.

While the national plan for vaccination coverage to avoid harsh lockdowns remains under debate, Palaszczuk suggested no state should go it alone once their coverage hits 80 per cent.

“The national plan is to get 80 per cent of the entire Australian population vaccinated and that’s exactly what we’re working towards,” Palaszczuk said.

Queensland will receive more vaccine supplies in the coming months and will open more vaccination hubs, including one at a Toowoomba shopping centre this week.

In the state worst affected by the current outbreak, NSW reported 1257 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths.

Large swathes of the state are current locked down and police are cracking down on compliance measures as authorities battle to contain the spread of the Delta strain.

The seven deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday include a woman in her 60s, three people in their 80s and three people in their 90s.

There are currently 1189 COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals, with 222 in intensive care beds and 94 on ventilators.

“We are seeing a stabilisation in some local government areas of concern and that’s positive, we hope that continues,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

The NSW-Queensland border bubble began operating again On Monday morning, allowing people in northern NSW who aren’t locked down to travel north of the border for essential work, school or medical reasons.


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