Qld has 19,709 new virus cases, six deaths

Gus McCubbing |

Queensland has recorded another 19,709 virus cases and six deaths, including one person in their 20s who had underlying health concerns. 

The state also had an almost 10 per cent spike in the number of people in hospital with COVID-19.

This figure jumped from 589 on Thursday to 649 at 7pm on Friday, while there are currently 46 people in intensive care and 14 on ventilators. 

“We’re at the start of what is really our first big wave in Queensland,” Health Minister Yvette D’Ath told reporters on Saturday. 

The other five deaths included one person in their 70s, two in their 80s, and two in their 90s – all of whom had been vaccinated but had underlying medical conditions. 

“It is a reminder that even the vaccinated can get severe disease, particularly if you have underlying medical issues,” Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said.

Ms D’Ath said the state government had moved to access more of Queensland’s estimated 5000-6000 private hospital beds in order to bolster the 8000 public beds believed to be available for COVID patients. 

But her primary concern was staffing levels in aged care. 

“If we have to start pulling staff out of the public health system to go into private aged care … inevitably that’s going to put more pressure on our system,” Ms D’Ath said.  

“If we have to, we will … I’m not going to leave vulnerable people in aged care with no staff. But that is not our preference.”

Ms D’Ath also urged Queenslanders with mild COVID-19 symptoms not to dial triple zero in order to ease pressure on the ambulance service. 

Dr Gerrard said an emergency call should be reserved for people experiencing breathing difficulties, significant and ongoing chest pain, or the coughing up of blood. 

And while border checkpoints are being dismantled in Queensland, with domestic travellers no longer required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, Ms D’Ath said no date had been set for further easing of restrictions. 

“(We’re) certainly not going to lift those restrictions while we’re looking at heading into a peak of cases,” the health minister said.

Queensland was initially set to dump border controls when it hit a COVID-19 vaccination rate of 90 per cent – a target expected to be achieved next week.

But the shift has been brought forward with the Omicron variant already widespread in the community and 90 per cent of eligible Queenslanders set to be double-jabbed in the coming days.

Queensland’s latest figures show 91.48 per cent of those eligible have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 88.51 per cent have received two.

Since the checkpoints were first established in March 2020, 3.3 million border passes have been issued and almost 3.7 million cars have been intercepted, with 35,902 turned around and 20,247 people sent to quarantine.

Overall there were 818 fines and arrests, 3571 individual investigations, 61 changes to border rules and 192,000 police hours spent managing checkpoints.