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Queensland Covid: susceptible medical experts unfold 2 clusters as happening grows to fifteen cases

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Queensland authorities say the growing number of UK-variant coronavirus cases in Brisbane come from “two distinct clusters”, both of which spread into the community by unvaccinated health workers.

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Another eight cases of community transmission were detected since yesterday, bringing the total to 15. The state’s chief health officer, Jeannette Young, said the situation was cause for concern.

“We’ve had a lot of people out of the community, infectious,” Young said.

Of the new cases announced on Tuesday, Young said six are close contacts of an unvaccinated nurse at the Princess Alexandra hospital’s Covid ward. Genomic testing indicates the nurse contracted the virus from a patient who had returned from overseas.

Two of the new cases appear linked to the other cluster, which was detected when a 26-year-old landscaper from the north Brisbane suburb of Stafford tested positive. Testing has linked those cases to a doctor at the Princess Alexandra hospital who contracted the virus on 9 March.

Greater Brisbane began a three-day lockdown to combat the spread of the virus on Monday evening. The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, told reporters it was too early to say whether the lockdown could be lifted when scheduled on Thursday.

“We just have to take this day by day,” Palaszczuk said.

“So far the fact we have these cases that are linked is good news.

“Do we expect to see more cases? Probably.

“The big question will be whether we see unlinked community transmission, so it’s a day-by-day proposition.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk takes off her mask to speak at Parliament House on in Brisbane on Tuesday morning.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk takes off her mask to speak at Parliament House in Brisbane on Tuesday morning. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

The way the virus has entered the community via health workers has prompted questions about measures inside Queensland’s hospitals and the speed of the state’s vaccine rollout.

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On Tuesday, the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation released the results of a survey that raised concerns about vaccinations and protective equipment for Queensland healthcare workers who might come into contact with coronavirus patients.

The survey found 43% of respondents had not had their first Covid vaccination. Seventy percent of respondents said they had not been properly fit-tested for protective face masks used when treating Covid patients.

The AMA Queensland president, Professor Chris Perry, said that the vaccination program would take time to roll out, but called on Queensland Health to hasten the immunisation of doctors and healthcare workers in hospitals.

“The survey results are a real concern for medical staff and their patients, many of whom move around the health system, between public and private hospitals, and in our community,” Perry said.

“At the bare minimum, any healthcare worker treating Covid-positive patients must have appropriate, fit-tested PPE and their Covid vaccination.”

Young told reporters on Tuesday that she had now mandated that workers coming into contact with coronavirus patients must have had at least their first vaccination.

“The number of cases has ramped up at the same time we’ve been trying to vaccinate people,” Young said. “It’s just so unfortunate that this outbreak occurred when it did. Another month and all of our staff [would have been vaccinated].”

The Queensland health minister, Yvette D’ath, said Queensland did a record number of vaccinations on Monday, and had now done more than 65,000 in total.

“We had to wait for consistency of supply,” D’ath said. “We had to keep some in supply to give people their second vaccination. We don’t want to vaccinate all these people and turn around and say, sorry we can’t give you your second vaccination because we don’t have enough.”

Several of the new cases – linked to the Princess Alexandra hospital nurse – attended a hen’s weekend at Byron Bay last weekend.

The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said she “would not be surprised” if infections were detected in NSW.

“We must brace ourselves,” Berejiklian said.

A man from the Gold Coast, who attended the Byron Bay function as an entertainer, is understood to have contracted the virus and subsequently visited an aged care facility. The residents at the facility had all been vaccinated, Young said.

 

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