Queensland’s 59-day streak without community transmission has abruptly ended after a Brisbane doctor tested positive to the coronavirus, forcing a major hospital into lockdown.
The doctor was treating a COVID-infected patient at the Princess Alexandra Hospital and sought testing on Friday after developing symptoms.
The positive result plunged the hospital into lockdown and residents of the metro suburb have been urged to remain vigilant ahead of contact tracing and exposure sites being released.
It comes less than a week before the national vaccine rollout moves into the next phase when Australians can receive the jab at their local GP.
Doctors are calling for people to be patient as medical clinics are expected to be inundated with people wanting information and bookings while little information has been released and stocks of the AstraZeneca drug are limited.
Queensland Health said in a statement late on Friday that the PA Hospital doctor had contact with an infected patient in the early hours of Wednesday and was infectious in the community for one day on Thursday.
Contact tracing is underway and it is likely public exposure sites will be identified and communicated on Saturday, Queensland Health said.
“All patients, staff and families this person interacted with are being identified and appropriate actions are being taken,” it said.
The lockdown means all non-essential visits to patients will not be allowed and anyone needing to attend the hospital will be required to wear a mask.
The Emergency Department will remain open but people are urged to receive care at other hospitals or at a GP if possible.
Staff will have to wear masks at all times as will patients unless it is not clinically appropriate.
Non-urgent outpatient bookings and elective surgery will be postponed.
Brisbane was plunged into a three-day snap lockdown in January after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel tested positive and was in the community for five days.
GP clinics to join vaccine rollout
Doctors are calling for patience as the coronavirus vaccine rollout is expected to begin in the general community from March 22.
Again, the elderly and vulnerable will be prioritised as locally made doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are distributed from GP clinics across Australia.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) vice president Bruce Willet said there was a lot of frustration at the little information being provided.
Clinics have also been given a small amount of doses to start with.
Dr Willet’s clinic in Brisbane has been told it has an initial 80, despite its patient list clocking 20,000.
“It is causing a lot of frustration and anxiety, the other side of the coin is that we are in the really enviable position in this country of having really no community spread,” he told the ABC.
“That means we do have some time, so I would urge people to be patient.
“As the local production ramps up the problems will improve, and we will get a really good supply.”
Locally made production of the AstraZeneca jab is expected to increase to about one million per week at its peak.
Dr Willet said it was a huge logistical operation.
“It is truly a historic task for this nation to vaccinate so many people in a relatively short period of time, so I think it does need patience for everyone.”
The Morrison government has enlisted thousands of general practitioners to administer the jabs across the country.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said as of Friday, only about 30 had indicated they did not want to participate in the vaccine rollout.
The program has so far been run by the federal and state governments, targeting frontline health and hotel quarantine workers as well as aged and disability care residents and staff.
Mr Morrison has clarified confusion around his government’s vaccination deadline, saying he hoped all Australians would get the first dose by October.
The second dose would be delivered 12 weeks later which had been changed from the initial four weeks and blown out the rollout deadline, Mr Morrison said.
The government initially promised to have four million people vaccinated by the end of March but so far only 125,000 have received their first jab.