Five Brisbane council areas will go into a three-day lockdown and masks will be mandatory from 6pm Friday, as Queensland moves fast to stop the community spread of the virulent UK coronavirus variant discovered in a hotel quarantine cleaner on Thursday.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced early on Friday morning that Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Ipswich, Redlands and Logan would enter the three-day lockdown against the “incredibly infectious” strain.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (right) and Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young.Credit:Jono Searle/Getty
The Premier said advice from Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young was that a three-day lockdown could prevent a 30-day lockdown, as authorities worked to contact trace anyone who may have come near the cleaner, who lives in the south Brisbane suburb of Algester.
Residents in the affected council areas can leave their homes for essential work, to provide healthcare for an essential person, for essential shopping, or for exercise in their local neighbourhoods.
“These are tough, strong measures – like I said, this is incredibly infectious,” the Premier said, speaking ahead of a National Cabinet meeting convened to assess the risks of the UK variant.
Dr Young said there were now 79 close contacts of the woman identified, and the “long weekend” lockdown would help trace any further contacts and ideally stop any spread of the virus in the community.
“We know because people have been very mobile recently, it’s actually hard to find people, so I need people to be at home so we can contact trace them, so we can get them to go into quarantine at their home for 14 days, so we can test them and quarantine them again,” Dr Young said.
Dr Young said she was seriously concerned that if the UK variant, which is 70 per cent more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19, escaped into the community, Queensland’s health system could be overwhelmed.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said 38 per cent of all positive cases in the United Kingdom occurred in the past month from the new strain.
The minister also asked any residents of the Greater Brisbane council areas who are on holiday elsewhere in the state – or anyone who has been in the greater Brisbane area since January 2 – to follow similar restrictions and stay put over the weekend.
Guidance regarding movement in and out of Greater Brisbane:
Reasons for leaving home:
Fever clinics, both public and private, will operate for longer hours over the weekend and a 24/7 clinic at Eight Mile Plains will continue operating. More than 200 people attended that clinic from 10pm onwards on Thursday night.
Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown was not an overreaction, but a strong response to the virulent UK strain to stop it running wild through the community.
“It is unprecedented, and it has to be done,” she said.
There are 79 close contacts of the positive hotel cleaner so far identified, the Premier said. The hotel she worked at is now in lockdown, and there are five cases of the UK strain in quarantine.
The woman travelled from Algester to central Brisbane train stations last weekend, as well as a shopping centre and a newsagent in neighbouring suburbs.
The Premier said if there were no new cases over the weekend lockdown, “fingers crossed, we’ll be out of the woods”.
Residents of the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast – council areas not included in the hard lockdown – are asked to stay home over the weekend if they have been in Brisbane since January 2.
If people from greater Brisbane are travelling farther away from south-east Queensland, they are asked to stay where they are for the three days.
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