Queensland authorities are not ruling out a lockdown extension for 2.5 million people in the Greater Brisbane area over Easter as NSW remains on alert for cross-border infections.
Queensland health authorities announced 10 new COVID-19 cases overnight – including eight in the community, prompting Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to admit the next few days were “critical” with the snap three-day lockdown scheduled to end on Wednesday.
“The next few days is critical for our contact tracers to get on top of this,” she said.
“In terms of the Greater Brisbane region, we just have to take this day-by-day.
“I said that we will give the most up-to-date information we can ever single morning. Do we expect to see more cases? Probably.
“The big question will be whether or not we see unlinked community transmission.”
Five local government areas in the Greater Brisbane area were plunged into lockdown at 5pm on Monday for a snap three-day lockdown after seven locally acquired COVID-19 cases were confirmed.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned she expected cases to cross the border as infected people had been to a number of venues in her state, including Byron Bay.
“We need to brace ourselves,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters.
NSW recorded no new cases despite local exposure to the coronavirus at a party in Byron Bay.
One cluster has formed around a doctor at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital and a second cluster is linked to a nurse at the same hospital on leave who was due to get the jab this week.
Unvaccinated hospital staff won’t be able to treat COVID-19 patients from Wednesday under a new protocol.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said they had planned on getting 20,000 vaccinated by mid-April and achieved that target last week. Another 6000 were vaccinated on Monday as vaccine deliveries to the state increased.
But she warned vaccinations haven’t yet reached “critical mass” in Queensland or the rest of Australia.
“The fact is we’re not fully vaccinated. COVID is real, it’s here and it’s on our doorstep.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan said Queensland Health was working hard to get the jab to healthcare workers as quickly as possible.
She conceded the task could take several more weeks.
The Morrison government is aiming for everyone who wants to have the vaccine to receive their first dose by October, far short of initial targets of four million by early April.
Vulnerable people in aged care are another concern across Australia but Professor McMillan said supply had now increased and 89,000 had been vaccinated.
“There is a large population of aged care residents,” she said.
“We’ll continue to see more and more done in the coming weeks, particularly now that we’ve got the domestic supply as well of the vaccine rollout both to aged care residents and aged care staff.”
More than 541,000 Australians have received their first COVID-19 vaccines, including 259,000 in the past week.
Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, the ACT and Northern Territory have moved in a variety of ways to restrict or outright ban incoming travel from Brisbane, or the state, over the growing cluster.
The NSW border remains open, although Ms Berejiklian has asked residents eyeing a trip north over Easter to change their plans.
It’s also a double blow for many thousands of non-essential hospitality and tourism companies ordered to close just a day after the federal government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme ended.
“It does make you wonder when the government says that we’re ‘not in a race’ for vaccination,” Labor MP Andrew Leigh said.
“It absolutely ought to be treated as a race. The government ought to be sprinting.”
He says Australia remains about 90th in the world in vaccine rollouts per capita and a third of Queensland businesses are close to hitting the wall.