State facing up to a new normal


Southeast Queenslanders are for the first time being urged to don masks in crowded places, such as busy shopping centres and on public transport, as health authorities scramble to contain the growing Brisbane Youth Detention Centre cluster.

In one of the strictest measures introduced in public hospitals during the pandemic, staff, visitors and patients in facilities across Greater Brisbane and Ipswich will be required to wear surgical masks as part of new measures designed to limit the spread of the virus.

Even general practitioners working in the region are being advised to do the same as concerns mount that Queenslanders are becoming complacent about getting tested for the virus.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young yesterday stated her strongest position on masks yet, saying it was time for Queenslanders to consider "that if they can't maintain social distancing, it's time to wear a mask".

"If you're in a crowded situation that you can't get out of, put a mask on," Dr Young said. "I'm not going to mandate it because I don't believe we have broad-spread community transmission but certainly we're in a risky period."

Under the new southeast Queensland public hospital requirements:

* Staff will wear masks at all times while treating patients and at any time where social distancing cannot be maintained;

* All patients are required to wear a mask at all times, except when they are in their own bed;

* Any visitors given an exemption to attend hospital will be required to wear a mask during their visit.



But Dr Young warned masks were not a "totally foolproof" form of protection.

In the 24 hours to yesterday, Queensland tested 6834 people - far short of the daily average during the past month of 9436, despite weekend warnings about the latest outbreak.

Prompt testing, identifying cases, contact tracing and then putting close contacts of people diagnosed with the virus into quarantine are seen as gold standard measures for containing the spread of the virus.

The highest number of samples tested in a single day in the past 30 days was 18,748 in the 24 hours to August 8 as authorities worked to stamp out a cluster triggered by two infectious young Logan women who allegedly returned to Queensland from Melbourne but failed to immediately quarantine.

Genomic sequencing analysis to determine whether the detention centre cluster of 10 people - five staff members and five of their relatives - is connected to the Logan outbreak involving five Queenslanders, is expected by the end of the week.

Long lines returned to fever clinics yesterday in Queensland's southeast, with numbers expected to be higher than Saturday or Sunday figures.

But Health Minister Steven Miles has expressed concern the number of people getting tested is not enough to "be assured that we are finding all of the cases that are out there".

He called on Queenslanders who may have been tested earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, and found to be negative, to get tested again if they developed new symptoms.



The outbreak involving the youth detention centre at Wacol grew by one yesterday - a relative of an infected employee - taking the number of cases in the cluster to 10, including five staff members and five of their relatives.

"Clearly, the fact that we're confirming just one case today and they were already in quarantine is a relief," Mr Miles said. "But there is a long to go in managing this cluster."

Public health alerts have been issued for dozens of locations across Greater Brisbane and Ipswich where people infected as part of the youth detention centre cluster visited.

Suburbs affected include Mt Gravatt East, Springfield, Carindale, Camp Hill, Marsden, Forest Lake, Browns Plains, Greenbank, Mt Gravatt, Carina Heights, Slacks Creek, Indooroopilly, Greenslopes, Crestmead, Brassall, Birkdale, Bundamba and Wacol. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the next seven to 14 days would be particularly critical for people to come forward for testing.

She said all of the young people inside the detention centre at Wacol had been tested, with just a few results still pending and just 16 of more than 500 staff members were yet to be swabbed.

"We are working on those people as a matter of priority," she said. Dr Young said it was crucial for health to track where the virus had been to contain the spread.

"We need to act quickly, promptly, to be able to contain it," she said.

AMA Queensland president Chris Perry yesterday welcomed the hospital mask mandates, saying they would protect health workers, but said general practitioner clinics did not have access to Queensland Health's PPE stockpile.









Originally published as State facing up to a new normal