First day of the fourth Covid wave and health chief flags months of masks

As Queenslanders are again urged to don face masks and take other precautions during yet another Covid wave, the state’s Chief Health Officer has revealed such surges in cases may go on for months.

Nov 11, 2022, updated Nov 11, 2022
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard. (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard. (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

The Palaszczuk Government has raised its virus alert from green to amber, which means masks are recommended indoors when people can’t socially distance in healthcare facilities and around older or vulnerable people.

Masks are also urged while on public transport and in crowded settings.

However, chief health officer Dr John Gerrard says there is no need for alarm and Queensland will not return to forced mask mandates.

“We are entering another wave here in Queensland as in other states of Australia, and this is not unexpected, but these waves will probably go on for some months or even longer,” Gerrard told ABC Radio on Friday.

He said said the wave’s peak was expected within weeks.

“The duration of these waves is unclear … we believe the peak will certainly be before Christmas, some time early in December.”

Hospitalisations have more than doubled to 205 in the past week, while 73 people have died and 21,761 new cases have been recorded since the beginning of October.

Case numbers have erupted since the weekend with the BQ.1 variant, which has swept Europe and the US, spreading in northern Brisbane and on the Gold Coast.

Gerrard said while precautions were necessary, people should continue their daily routines.

“This is just the means of communication of what is happening with Covid in the community, and this will be going on for months or even years, so people need to get on with their lives.

“But one very specific most important message and that is that people need to be up to date with their vaccinations.”

Queensland’s vaccination rate remains at 91.5 per cent. Health Minister Yvette D’Ath has urged people to book in their booster shots to better protect themselves from infection.

“We strongly encourage as we move into this fourth wave to go get your vaccination now to ensure you have the most protection you possibly can,” D’Ath said.

She advised Queenslanders to wear masks in health facilities, indoors and on public transport, noting it’s not mandatory.

The minister asked people who tested positive to register those results “so we can get an idea of the number of active cases out there in the community”.

The bulk of new cases have been in northern Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, she said.

The chief health officer’s powers to order border closures, lock down cities or mandate vaccines for the general public were revoked by parliament last month.

Gerrard can still legally order infected people to isolate and close contacts to quarantine, and mandate face masks and vaccination in health facilities for another 12 months.

University of South Australia biostatistics chair Professor Adrian Esterman said the mix of waning immunity and few public health measures was driving the new wave.

The onus was on other states to follow Queensland’s lead and upgrade their health advice, he said.

“Many people have had their last dose of vaccine over six months ago and by now have comparatively little protection against symptomatic disease,” Esterman said.

“The onus is now on the other states and territories to follow Queensland’s lead and upgrade their health advice.”

Mask advice has not shifted in NSW, with Premier Dominic Perrottet saying authorities are looking to health advice to get the balance right.

“We do advise people when you’re visiting aged care facilities to wear masks and in hospitals,” Perrottet told Sydney radio 2GB on Friday.

“Here in NSW, we’re open and free.”

That same advice also applies in Victoria, where a government spokesperson reminded residents masks remain a cheap and effective tool that reduces transmission.

The Northern Territory will “strongly” encourage but no longer require residents to test if they feel unwell. Face masks are still recommended in indoor settings.

Meanwhile, a cruise ship carrying thousands of people has potentially hundreds of Covid-19 cases on board as it returns to Sydney.

The Majestic Princess is due back on Saturday, at the end of a 12-day voyage around New Zealand.

Under the three-tier classification for cruises, Covid-19 is deemed to be having a “moderate impact” to the vessel’s staffing and resources, with three to 10 per cent of people infected.

With 4600 passengers and crew, that equates to between 138 and 455 positive cases.

NSW Health said cruise operators agreed to implement set-out public health measures prior to the resumption of cruising earlier this year.

“Cruising is a higher risk activity and cases of Covid-19 are expected on board cruise lines,” a government spokesperson told AAP.

Princess Cruises told AAP there are strict and robust protocols in place.

“We continue to monitor closely some of the guests who tested positive to Covid-19 on board Majestic Princess,” a spokesperson said.

“These guests are being cared for in their staterooms by our medical and support staff.

The passengers who have not tested positive can still move freely around the ship and enjoy their holiday if they wear masks.


Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InQueensland.
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy