Qld surgery bans amid 11,174 COVID cases


Queensland has suspended non-urgent elective surgeries for eight weeks as it reports 11,174 new COVID-19 cases and the deaths of two men in their 30s.

Some public hospitals had already cut surgeries but the measure announced on Saturday would ensure no category-three and only some category-two surgeries can occur between now and March.

“We will review this at the end of January, when we will assess where we are in the surge and where we expect the peak to occur,” Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said on Saturday.

Outpatient appointments will also move to telehealth or be delayed.

The changes are part of plans, begun months ago, where the state moves through tiered stages, the minister said.

“It’s not just about bed capacity, it’s about health workers and their availability,” she said, saying 3500 health workers were in isolation.

The state reported 11,174 cases, which is a slight rise on Friday’s numbers and takes active cases to just shy of 63,000.

Three of the 17 in intensive care units are on ventilation, among 349 in hospital.

The coroner has confirmed two more deaths, both men in their 30s who developed myocarditis.

One man was unvaccinated and died unexpectedly in his Brisbane home on Wednesday, Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said.

The other, a Gold Coast man, died about 10 days ago.

“Myocarditis … viral infection of the heart, can be very difficult for both the patient and doctors to recognise before it causes sudden death. Symptoms can include pain behind the chest, that’s why we recommend people with significant chest pain to seek advice if they have COVID-19,” Dr Gerrard said.

The infection was “exceedingly rare” but rare conditions were expected once COVID-19 infections reached epidemic levels, as they are among people aged 20 to 39, he said.

As Dr Gerrard acknowledged Queensland’s official figures “grossly underestimated” current infection levels, the health department launched a web form to allow residents to register positive rapid antigen tests.

Ms D’Ath urged unvaccinated people and those eligible for second or third shots to get a shot immediately.

Nearly one in five Queenslanders aged 16 to 50 is unvaccinated, with the largest proportion aged 20 to 39.

“We also know this is the group that we are seeing the most virus in … you are likely to get it first, you are likely to spread it first,” Ms D’Ath said.

Statewide, the 16-and-over vaccination rate is 91.0 per cent, with 87.5 per cent double-dosed.

Meanwhile, the Queensland government’s decision to delay primary school students’ return if the outbreak is still peaking has been applauded by a teachers’ union.

Primary school children, many of whom won’t have had enough time to be fully vaccinated, are due to return to class on January 24.

But Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that will be postponed by two to three weeks if infections are still escalating.

“(That) is most welcome at this uncertain time and we look forward to the full details of the plan being provided in the coming days,” the Independent Education Union Queensland and Northern Territory’s Terry Burke said.