Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital has been locked down after a nurse tested positive to the coronavirus.
Concerns are growing that Greater Brisbane’s lockdown will not lift before Easter, while the Gold Coast is also on alert as authorities identify another 11 sites where the virus may have spread.
Authorities warned on Tuesday that the COVID-19 outbreak is “still escalating”.
The emergency lockdown of the major Brisbane hospital comes after staff at the nearby Mater Mothers’ Hospital were sent home after a recent visitor tested positive.
A doctor and nurse who worked at the Princess Alexandra Hospital while unvaccinated are central to two COVID-19 cluster outbreaks, both of which are the highly contagious British variant of the coronavirus.
The nurse was not vaccinated when she worked one shift in the PA Hospital’s COVID-19 ward, and had been on leave when she contracted the virus from a patient who had returned from overseas.
Preliminary information revealed she was not infectious until she undertook a shift on March 23.
That shift did not involve her managing COVID patients.
“As a precautionary measure, we are continuing to test all staff that have worked in ward 5D at PA Hospital between midday Friday, March 19 and 4pm Sunday, March 28,” Queensland’s Metro South Hospital and Health Service said in a statement.
It is the second time in a month that the Princess Alexandra Hospital has been locked down.
“This additional lockdown will enable PA Hospital to put in place processes to manage impacts associated with these linked cases,” an official said.
The hospital will continue to test all staff that have worked in the COVID-19 ward since March 19.
Nearby is the Mater Mothers’ Hospital, which sent home staff after a recent visitor tested positive to the virus.
The person visited the private maternity section and a nearby coffee shop popular with staff.
“In line with the Department of Health response, Mater has responded to contact tracing alerts for parts of Brisbane for locations visited by positive COVID-19 cases,” the Mater Hospital said in a statement.
“Mater continues to operate at full capacity with no disruption to any urgent or scheduled services.”
Another eight locally transmitted virus vases were announced on Tuesday.
It comes as concerns grow that Greater Brisbane’s lockdown will not lift by Good Friday.
The growing list of venues exposed to COVID-19
Queensland Health issued 11 contract tracing alerts Tuesday evening, including a Surf Life Saving competition at Tugun, which is believed to have had hundreds of competitors and onlookers in attendance.
It was expected 1500 people would attend the event over the weekend, but “the least amount of numbers would have been there at that time”, competitor Matt Bevilacqua told the ABC.
“Limited, absolute limited numbers from throughout the whole weekend of that 1,500 would have been represented on the Sunday,” he said.
Anyone who attended the event at Tugun Beach between 12:30pm and 2pm must get tested immediately and quarantine at home until they receive a negative result.
The popular Bundall Farmers’ Market at the Home of the Arts and Niche & Co Café were also added to the list of exposure sites after Greater Brisbane was declared a COVID-19 hotspot on Tuesday.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has warned the situation was escalating and travellers should take note of border closures.
“It may be one thing to go there but coming back might also be difficult,” he said.
“I can’t predict what’s going to happen in the next week or two.”
The lockdown is scheduled to lift at 5pm on Thursday, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said health authorities were taking things “day-by-day”.
She said the decision to lockdown about 2.5 million people was the right step after eight additional cases were reported on Tuesday.
“Do we expect to see more cases – probably, probably we will see more,” she said.
“The big question will be whether or not we see unlinked community transmission.”
The state’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has also left the door open to expand lockdown measures to other regions.
One known case lives on the Gold Coast and others have visited Toowoomba, Gladstone, Hervey Bay and Gin Gin while infectious.
“The message here is that people should be on alert, no matter where they are in Queensland,” Dr Young said.