News Coronavirus Queensland extends CHO pandemic powers until October
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Queensland extends CHO pandemic powers until October

Yvette D'Ath
There's merit to having the same close contact rules across the country, Yvette D'Ath says. Photo: AAP
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The Queensland chief health officer’s pandemic powers to order COVID-19 face mask and vaccine mandates, as well as citywide lockdowns, have been extended for six months.

The state Labor government passed its public health bill on Thursday night with the support of 48 Labor MPs, but it was opposed by the Liberal National Party, Katter’s Australian Party, One Nation MPs, and independent MP Sandy Bolton.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said Chief Health Officer John Gerrard needs the powers to act quickly given the unpredictable nature of COVID-19.

“This bill has been developed in a period of ongoing uncertainty not experienced in a century,” she told parliament on Thursday night.

“For the foreseeable future, there will continue to be unknowns.

“Government must have the tools to respond to preserve the health and safety of our people, to protect the community and mitigate disruption to society.”

The extension comes as elective surgeries are expected to be cut at some hospitals in response to thousands of health workers needing to quarantine or isolate.

More than 3300 health workers are currently furloughed, a figure that has more than doubled in the past week and a half.

Ms D’Ath is hopeful the current Omicron wave will not result in a state-wide suspension of elective surgery.

The state recorded another 10,722 cases on Friday, with 376 patients in public hospitals and 13 in ICU.

Another 27 cases are in private hospitals, with one patient in ICU.

Data suggests the state’s current Omicron wave is about a the third of the size of the previous wave in January, Dr Gerrard said.

Queensland appears to be approaching the peak of transmission, with hospital numbers expected to follow in one to two weeks.

During last night’s debate, the LNP moved amendments to extend Dr Gerrard’s powers only until the end of May, as well as for the government to publicly release health advice and for a new parliamentary oversight committee for the CHO.

“It is time to provide the public and the parliament all the information with the plan for how we can truly live with COVID,” LNP leader David Crisafulli said.

“To continually accept these laws without the proper oversight, without the proper transparency, would be for this parliament to not be doing its job.”

Ms D’Ath did not respond to transparency concerns, but said winding back the pandemic powers in two months was irresponsible.

The health minister pointed out the federal government had indicated the COVID-19 national partnership agreement would continue until the end of September.

“That they (the LNP) are irresponsibly calling for us to end this before winter shows that they continue to deny that COVID is a serious threat to life,” she said.

Ms D’Ath said while the Queensland Human Rights Commission had called for vaccine mandates to end, the rights of the individual needed to be weighed with those of the general population.

“We know it is hard to weigh up those rights and get the balance correct, but we have to do it,” she said.

– AAP