If Australia is going to succeed in keeping COVID cases to a minimum, the eyes of the nation need to be trained on Queensland.
Some returned residents in that state are facing a 28-day quarantine, a whole hotel has been evacuated forcing 600 people into new quarantine, and air-conditioning is now being investigated as the source in the mystery transmission of the highly infectious UK strain.
The state’s chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, is seeking the advice of her interstate counterparts, but admits she’s at a loss.
This is not a Queensland issue; this is a national issue.
Authorities know that a man and his partner arrived from the UK, via Doha, at the end of December and was taken to Brisbane’s Hotel Grand Chancellor to quarantine.
Two days later, a man and his adult daughter arrived from Lebanon and were quarantined in the same hotel – and on the same floor.
A day later – on January 2 – the first man tested positive to COVID.
Five days later, a casual cleaner became the first case of the UK strain detected in the community in Australia – prompting a three-day lockdown for Brisbanites and thousands of families holidaying from NSW and Victoria.
The cleaner’s partner later tested positive, and then days later, so did the family, which arrived from Lebanon.
But here’s the problem. The cleaner only worked on January 2.
On January 3, the man from the UK was taken to hospital.
At no point, did the cleaner even visit his room. And that’s got authorities stumped.
So this floor – Floor 7 – has provided a mystery that will be front and centre of Friday’s cabinet talks.
Is the main source of inquiry the hotel’s air-conditioning? Or is it true that investigations are now focused on the use of lifts?
While the source of the mystery spread is being probed, what is being done in other quarantine hotels to ensure those staying there are protected?
Is there evidence someone sneaked out of their room on this floor, and visited others?
What does the CCTV footage show?
Almost 150 former guests at the Hotel Grand Chancellor haven’t yet been tracked down and they need to now quarantine – how many were on this floor?
Why were all those in one hotel moved to another that has shared facilities with city residents?
This strain is showing up later, than the earlier strain.
What other protocols should be put in place to deal with that?
What remote mining sites are now under consideration, nationally, and who might they host?
How would you deal with someone very sick, at a remote site, in need of emergency care?
What PPE do the cleaners wear and how have they been trained?
Most of those questions have been asked – either of government, the chief health officer or the police. And the answers are seriously wanting.
I don’t have that detail.
I don’t have the specifics.
Maybe the results of the police investigation will be made public. Maybe not.
We’ll decide on the mining sites, where quarantined travellers might be sent, and let you know what we decide.
I don’t have that to hand.
I don’t have that information on me.
They were the key messages out of Thursday’s daily press update. We say what we want, we don’t answer questions, but the cricket will go ahead.
But herein lies the problem with that approach.
People responded quickly to the government’s call last week for an instant three-day shutdown, without question.
Almost everyone continues to don masks and only a handful of people have been found to be breaching rules.
The boy who cried ‘wolf’ lost the support of his audience, and so will our leaders – unless they trust the public enough to take them into their confidence over at least some of the decisions they are making.
And that’s certainly not happening at the moment.