UPDATED 8.10AM (AEST) 28/09/2021
Queensland’s COVID-free streak has been abruptly shattered with confirmation of a mystery infection in a Brisbane aviation worker who has not recently been overseas or interstate.
There were also reports later on Tuesday that the man’s wife had tested positive to the virus, and of a third unrelated infection in Brisbane’s south.
A guesthouse in South Brisbane is under police guard and more than a dozen people have reportedly been forced into isolation following the latest cases.
Queensland health authorities issued an alert late on Monday for exposure sites, which include a childcare centre, McDonald’s and two furniture stores in Brisbane’s north.
A Queensland Health spokesperson refused to provide any further information despite the multiple reports, saying Premier Annastacia Palaczczuk and Health Minister Yvette D’Ath would hold a news conference later on Tuesday morning.
However, police confirmed they were at the guesthouse after being called in by Queensland Health.
Queensland Health said the aviation worker, a man in his 30s, had “no recent history of overseas or interstate travel”.
The exposure sites so far are places he visited on Thursday, September 23:
- McDonald’s Albany Creek, drive-through, 5.05-5.10am (low-risk contact)
- Mother Duck Childcare & Kindergarten, Eatons Hill, 7.25-8am (casual contact)
- Seats ‘R’ Us, Rocklea, 11.1511.45am (close contact)
- Freedom Furniture Aspley, 4.405pm (casual contact)
Meanwhile, the state’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young on Monday urged people to get vaccinated and “prepare and hope” for the state’s borders to reopen in time for Christmas.
Queensland’s borders have been closed to most of NSW since July 21, to greater Sydney since June 22, regional Victoria since July 17 and Melbourne since May 28.
Dr Young raised hopes hard borders could come down before the festive period, saying businesses should start getting ready.
“Of course, yes, we should all prepare and hope and get everyone vaccinated,” she said.
“That’s the most important thing business can do – to be out there saying, ‘Just get vaccinated’, because the more people who are vaccinated, the more likely we can remove those last remaining restrictions.”
Over the border in NSW, the state is set to re-open in two weeks after Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the beginning of the “COVID-normal” era, almost certainly ending statewide or region-wide lockdowns.
Overnight, the Yass Valley LGA emerged from lockdown but restrictions were extended in Cowra for another seven days until October 5.
Both locations were forced into lockdowns on September 20.
NSW confirmed 787 local COVID cases and 12 deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday.
Ms Berejiklian urged residents to remain vigilant until the 70 per cent milestone had been reached to keep virus transmissions and hospitalisations low.
The idea that NSW and Victoria could present a “unity ticket” for reopening borders to international travellers as soon as possible was also floated.
Victoria had 705 cases on Monday as the state government announced grants of up to $10,000 in the hardest hit suburbs to speed up the vaccination rollout.
Premier Daniel Andrews said more than 100 grants of up to $4000 and 10 of $10,000 would be available for GPs and pharmacies in 11 local government areas with high COVID-19 infections and low vaccination rates.
Melbourne’s lockdown will remain until 70 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 are double-vaccinated, which is forecast for October 26.
A more significant easing of restrictions will occur when the 80 per cent double-dose target is met, forecast for November 5.
Pfizer tests drug
Pfizer says it is testing an oral antiviral drug to prevent COVID-19 infection among those who have been exposed to the virus, such as close contacts.
The medicine being developed aims to ward off the virus if someone you have had close interactions with, such as a household member, gets infected.
The drug maker said it would study the pill in combination with a low dose of the HIV drug ritonavir in people who are at least 18 years old and live in the same household with someone who is infected.
Researchers expect the use of ritonavir will help slow the breakdown of the potential treatment so it remains active longer to help fight the virus.
“If successful, we believe this therapy could help stop the virus early — before it has had a chance to replicate extensively,” Pfizer chief scientific officer Mikael Dolsten said in a statement.
Pfizer is also studying its potential treatment in people who are already infected with the virus.
It is designed to be prescribed at the first sign of infection without requiring patients to be hospitalised.
The drug maker expected results from those studies by the end of the year.
US President Joe Biden has rolled up his shirt sleeve for a COVID-19 vaccine booster inoculation, hoping to provide a powerful example on the need to get the extra shot even as millions go without their first.
In getting the booster, Mr Biden dismissed criticism that the US should distribute more vaccines worldwide before allowing boosters at home.
“We are going to do our part,” he said.
The US Centress for Disease Control and Prevention last week backed an additional dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people in the US aged 65 and older, adults with underlying medical conditions and adults in high-risk working and institutional settings.
Mr Biden, 78, said his wife Jill would also get a booster shot soon.
While scientists are divided over the need for booster shots when so many people in the US and other countries remain unvaccinated, Mr Biden announced the push in August as part of an effort to shore up protection against the highly transmissible Delta variant.
Only people who received their last dose of Pfizer’s shot at least six months ago are eligible for another shot now, US regulators said.
The FDA has not yet considered Moderna’s application for boosters and Johnson & Johnson has not yet applied for one.