Queensland authorities face a “very important” week ahead as they fight to maintain to control of the state’s resurgence of coronavirus, a prominent infectious diseases expert has warned.
Queensland on Monday expanded a public health alert to 67 venues – up from 40 – after a coronavirus cluster linked to a Brisbane Youth Detention Centre grew over the weekend.
Although the state recorded just one new case on Monday – taking the centre’s cluster to 10 – the Victorian second wave has shown that small COVID clusters have the capacity to quickly grow into untraceable outbreaks.
Associate Professor Ian Mackay, a virologist at the University of Queensland, said a “really bad sign” would be exponentially increasing case numbers from the Brisbane cluster.
So as Victoria’s case numbers plummet, Queensland health authorities are now turning attention to their own backyard.
How Queenslanders talk to their Victorian mates during lockdown. pic.twitter.com/WSj8jkExY4
— Dan Anstey (@Dan_Anstey) August 4, 2020
The Queensland cluster began after a 77-year-old Ipswich woman was diagnosed with COVID-19 last week, but continued to work at the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre while infectious.
So far the virus has spread to fellow staff members, who have passed it on to their relatives.
This week will reveal if those relatives have gone on to infect lots of other people, Associate Professor Mackay said.
“Did we catch it at the beginning?” he said.
“Or have we caught it as part way through an ongoing transmission chain? If not, how far has it been spreading in the meantime?”
The week ahead will be ‘really essential’
More than 200 of 500 staff at the Wacol detention centre have tested negative and more than 110 youth inmates have returned negative results.
Associate Professor Mackay said it was possible Queensland health authorities missed some people who were asymptomatic, or just mildly sick, and that the coronavirus could have spread further than initially thought.
This is why it’s so important to get tested, even if you’ve only got a runny nose or a mild headache.
“What we’re seeing in the last couple of days is we’re not getting large numbers of people to testing sites when we need those numbers to jump up,” he said.
“This week will be really essential to see whether we’ve nailed it down and gotten ahead of (the virus’s spread), or whether we are chasing it, which can be more of a problem.”
In the meantime, Associate Professor Mackay urged Brisbane locals to stay calm, practise social distancing and wear a face mask when socially distancing is impossible, like at a crowded supermarket.