Thanks a million Queensland: Jeannette Young on reaching our virus milestone

Queensland’s success at keeping the coronavirus at bay belongs to us all, but it’s no time to rest on our laurels, writes Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young

Sep 10, 2020, updated Sep 10, 2020
Queensland's success in managing coronavirus has been the result of the expert advice of Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young. (Photo: AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Queensland's success in managing coronavirus has been the result of the expert advice of Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young. (Photo: AAP Image/Dan Peled)

To all Queenslanders who have had a COVID-19 test, thank you. Today we reached a million COVID-19 tests in Queensland, with half of these conducted in the past six weeks alone.

By getting tested, you are playing your part in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Queensland. Right now, if people have any symptoms, you have more chance of testing positive for COVID-19 than the flu, because our flu cases in Queensland are at a record low this year.

Our strategy from the start was to follow the WHO’s advice and detect, test, isolate and trace every contact. In doing so, we have limited the spread of COVID-19.  At the start of the pandemic, we were seeing 10,000 tests conducted across the whole country.

A few months ago, our goal was to reach 10,000 daily tests in Queensland. I’m pleased to say that we’ve exceeded this goal on many occasions in recent months. Some days, in fact, we’ve had more than 20,000.

Throughout the pandemic we’ve increased our testing capacity significantly, partnering with our private clinics and opening up pop-up testing clinics swiftly in areas where we had confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. Testing as many people with symptoms has been vital in managing the spread of COVID-19 in our community and has also helped to identify people with milder symptoms.

My advice from the start has been, if you have any symptoms, no matter how mild, get tested and isolate yourself until you get the result. Better yet, until your symptoms resolve completely.

Queenslanders have been heeding this advice diligently and because of this, we’ve been able to get on top of our recent outbreaks quickly and efficiently and limit the spread we’ve seen in other states and parts of the world.

We are a resilient bunch in Queensland and normally if we get the sniffles or a sore throat, we like to soldier on and still go to work without giving it a second thought. However, these are not normal times. In Victoria, we’ve seen how transmission in workplaces was driving Victorian case numbers because people were going to work sick.

If you are sick, the best thing you can do to protect your colleagues, family and community is to not go to work, stay at home, and arrange to get tested as soon as possible.

I know getting tested means isolating at home until you get your results, and this can be disruptive to your lives. I understand that not everyone will have jobs they can do from home. But we know to keep Queenslanders safe and protect our economy, this is the right thing to do.

Thankfully in Queensland, the number of active cases is quite low. As of September 10, we have 27 active cases. As the situation in Victoria has proved, COVID-19 can spread easily and fast, and you can quickly go from a handful of new cases to hundreds of daily cases in only a couple of weeks.

Queensland has been lucky so far. We’ve seen very little community transmission thanks to the excellent contact tracing team – and we want to keep it that way. But the situation can change very quickly simply by one or two people with COVID-19 interacting with others.

COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. While older people are more likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 and suffer serious illness, anyone can catch and spread COVID-19. Everyone will have a different reaction as your body fights the virus.

While most people recover at home, some people infected by COVID-19 have been in hospital for weeks, even months. They’ve been on ventilators, struggling to breathe. Six Queenslanders have sadly lost their lives.

Even healthy, fit, young people have suffered serious illness from COVID-19. Some have died, and some will be battling health issues for years because they were infected with this virus.

I know you are tired of this virus, but we all need to continue to take the fight against COVID-19 seriously. No one is immune. There is no vaccine right now.

While we have been able to ease restrictions, if we start to see prolonged community transmission, we may have to reintroduce restrictions.

It could mean targeted lockdowns like in Victoria where residential towers and some suburbs went into lockdown.  Or it could mean we limit numbers for visitors to your home or in specific businesses such as pubs and restaurants where we have seen community transmission.

We don’t want to see us undo the hard work we’ve done so far and go backwards. But I need your help to save lives. This is not something you can shrug off and think it’s someone else’s duty.

Right now, you can still go to the gym or out to your favourite café or restaurant. You can still take a road trip, go to the beach, or visit the cinema.

But please wash your hands. Don’t go out if you’re unwell – not to work or school, not to see friends or family, not to the shopping centre. Stay 1.5 metres from others as much as possible. Avoid travel into any COVID-19 hotspots. And please, get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are mild, even if it’s “just a sniffle”.

We need to work together to try and avoid a second wave of COVID-19 in Queensland.

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