Chaos at testing centres as hundreds of thousands of new cases loom

Queensland’s top health official has warned of hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 cases in the state by the end of the month, urging anyone who has even the mildest of symptoms to stay home.

Jan 04, 2022, updated Jan 04, 2022
Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard. Photo: AAP

Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard. Photo: AAP

Chief Health Office John Gerrard’s prediction came amid reports of chaos at several virus testing centres, with Health Minister Yvette D’Ath admitting the government thought some private centres would be open when they were in fact closed.

Long queues had formed outside several QML-run testing centres on Brisbane and the Gold Coast on Tuesday morning before it was revealed they would not open despite advice on  Queensland Health’s website that they would be.

Ms D’Ath admitted the system was feeling the pressure of huge numbers of people wanting to get tested and that there was confusion over the status of centres run by private pathology companies like QML and Sullivan Nicolaides.

“We know this is putting a strain across the whole testing system and we do ask for people’s patience,” she said.

There are reports of major congestion around testings sites at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital at Herston and at Ashgrove and Murrarie. Polcie had to be called to ease some traffic snarls.

D’Ath also revealed half a million scarce rapid antigen tests had arrived in Queensland.

“From tomorrow we will be dispatching those across our various public testing sites,” she said.

“It will take a number of days to get them out into the regions and across Queensland, but we will make sure that we get these rapid antigen tests to everyone around public testing clinics over the next few days.

“I can advise we’ve got half a million rapid antigen tests that have arrived in our distribution centre.”

Queensland has recorded 5699 new Covid-19 cases, with one more case in intensive care and one placed on a ventilator.

Dr Gerrard said there are 11 people in ICU – up from 10 on Monday and two were on ventilators.

About 170 people with Covid-19 were being treated in hospital.

Gerrard said the number of cases was steadily rising, with 23 per cent of Pathology Queensland’s tests being positive on Monday, however vaccination is holding the line.

“This is a clearly a contagious, very contagious virus, but the good news so far, the good news is that of all those cases, we still, as of last night, only had 11 patients in intensive care of whom two were on ventilators,” he said.

“So this the disease that we are seeing at the moment, bears no resemblance to the disease that was being reported last year both in Australia and overseas because of vaccination, largely because of vaccination.”

Gerrard warned that the number of cases could spike into the hundreds of thousands by the end of January.

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“The numbers of cases we are expected to see through January, early February, will be very high. Certainly in the hundreds of thousands, if not more, very high,” he said.

Gerrard said anyone with cold or flu symptoms, who is not “unduly sick”, should stay home and monitor their symptoms.

He said vaccinated people should recover within a few days, but anyone short of breath, suffering chest pain or fever, feeling faint or fainting should seek medical treatment.

“As tests become more available, hopefully more rapid antigen tests will become available, then you should we should be able to get access to them,” he said.

“But for the moment that (staying home) is not an unreasonable (request) that’s exactly precisely what I am saying.”

The government had planned to scrap pre-travel testing requirements for visitors from interstate hotspots and quarantine for international arrivals once 90 per cent of eligible Queenslands are vaccinated.

However, when asked if the roadmap could change cases continuing to climb in Queensland, Gerrard said that plan was constantly being reviewed.

“We’re looking at all of these things every day, I even spoke to (NSW CHO Kerry Chant) about this very issue last night,” he said.

“So we’re discussing these issues every day.”


-with AAP

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