‘Hundreds of thousands’ of cases for Qld

Marty Silk |

Queensland’s COVID-19 testing capacity is under strain with at least 17 private clinics unexpectedly shut and authorities warning of “hundreds of thousands” of cases by the end of the month.

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard says 5699 cases emerged after 33,312 tests in the 24 hours to 6.30am on Tuesday.

There are 11 people in ICU with two on ventilators and another 170 virus patients are being treated in hospital.

Dr Gerrard says there are 25,924 active cases in the state with 23 per cent of Pathology Queensland’s tests being positive on Monday.

“The numbers of cases we are expected to see through January will be very high. Certainly in the hundreds of thousands, if not more, in Queensland – very high,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

As cases rise, testing capacity is being stretched after some private providers did not open 17 testing sites as planned on Tuesday.

The closures led to Queensland Health centres being flooded with people and long traffic jams across the southeast.

“My heart goes out to those who have had to wait for long, long periods of time in queues or missed out,” Dr Gerrard said.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said some providers such as QML were short staffed, while Sullivan Nicolaides redirected staff to test aged care residents on behalf of the Commonwealth.

She said some private staff couldn’t work because they had COVID-19 and others were close contacts.

“We can’t force their staff to go to work if they’re positive, we just can’t ask them to do that,” Ms D’Ath said.

Liberal National Party leader David Crisafulli didn’t understand why the government listed private testing clinics as being open on the Queensland Health website when the providers themselves listed the same clinics as closed.

“Probably most concerning was the words that came in the minister’s mouth which was that she assumed they would be open,” he told reporters.

“You don’t assume at any time, you certainly don’t assume during the pandemic.”

To cope with the capacity pressures, Dr Gerrard said anyone with cold or flu symptoms who is not “unduly sick” should stay home and monitor their symptoms.

He said vaccinated people should recover within a few days, but anyone short of breath, suffering chest pain or fever, feeling faint or fainting should seek medical treatment.

“As tests become more available, hopefully more rapid antigen tests will become available, then you should we should be able to get access to them,” the CHO said. 

“But for the moment that (staying home) is not an unreasonable (request), that’s exactly what I am saying.”

The government’s plan to scrap RAT requirements for visitors from interstate hotspots, and quarantine for international arrivals once 90 per cent of eligible Queenslanders are vaccinated is also under review.

The latest figures show 86.9 per cent are fully vaccinated, but Ms D’Ath said that number should be higher based on the number of people who had had a first dose four weeks ago.

“Please, please come forward and get your second dose as soon as you’re eligible,” she said.

Dr Gerrard suggested with cases continuing to surge in the state, the RAT requirement for travellers could be reconsidered.

“We’re looking at all of these things every day, I even spoke to (NSW CHO Kerry Chant) about this very issue last night,” he said.

“So we’re discussing these issues every day.”