Qld records almost 11,000 new COVID cases

Marty Silk and Nick Gibbs |

Queenslanders are being asked to stay home in coming weeks as the COVID-19 outbreak peaks, with authorities considering delaying the return to primary school and suspending elective surgery.

Another 10,953 new cases were recorded on Friday after 36,492 tests, taking active infections to more than 50,000.

There are 327 COVID-19 patients in hospital and 14 in intensive care, including three on ventilation.

Almost 25,000 virus cases are being treated at home and many more are self-isolating as close contacts.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has urged people to work from home if they’re able, and avoid socialising for the next six weeks.

“This is going to be a short, sharp wave,” she said. 

“We’re asking you to minimise your going out for essentially the next six weeks.

“That’s not a big ask when you’ve seen countries around the world that have endured up to a year of lockdown.”

Primary school students are due to return to class on January 24, but that will be delayed by two to three weeks if the outbreak is still peaking.

The premier said children – many of whom won’t have had enough time to be fully vaccinated – won’t be put at risk.

“The last thing is I don’t want parents to have concerns,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“I’ve got sisters who’ve got young children, they’re concerned and they want to make sure that their kids are vaccinated before returning to school.

“But also too we’re heading towards a peak, there may be staff shortages as well, so we’ve got to factor all of that in.

“This is going to be, January and February is going to be, a very tough time for Queensland.”

Hospitals are facing staff shortages already with 1156 health workers infected and 1835 in quarantine.

The government will decide whether to suspend all elective surgery during the peak in the next 48 hours.

There are also contingency plans to allow infected health workers who are asymptomatic to work in COVID-19 wards.

The surging cases come as testing capacity is pushed to the brink and authorities warn that thousands of infections are likely circulating in the community undetected.

The unexpected closure of private PCR testing hubs this week due to virus-related staff shortages has weighed on capacity, causing huge queues at public clinics.

Authorities have been trying to secure more rapid antigen tests with more than 220,000 distributed to clinics already and another 1.3 million expected by this time next week.

“I’ve also had reports that they are back on the shelves in some supermarkets. I know they are going very quickly,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

The government has also scrapped testing requirements for truck drivers and freight workers in a bid to maintain food and essential supplies during the peak.

While Queenslanders have effectively been told to act like they’re on lockdown for the next six weeks, Dr Gerrard ruled out any mandatory restrictions for now.

He said measures like density limits would not slow down the wave unless they were “quite draconian”.

“It’s not going to have a major impact on the virus, but it would have a major impact on the greater society, so I have not given that advice,” Dr Gerrard said.

The latest figures show 87.26 per cent of eligible Queenslanders have had two doses of a vaccine and 90.93 per cent have had one jab.