Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has slammed the federal government’s “irregular supply” of crucial COVID vaccines as another infection in a frontline health worker was confirmed.
The new case, in a nurse from a coronavirus ward at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital, was one of two community infections confirmed on Wednesday.
The other infection is a connection of another nurse who is considered patient zero in one of the community clusters that prompted this week’s snap lockdown of greater Brisbane.
Queensland has come under fire for its rollout of vaccines, with federal Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud lashing the state government as irresponsible for withholding shots so it could ensure it had enough second doses.
Ms Palaszczuk denied the state was stockpiling vaccines.
“We need surety of supply; [a] guarantee of supply by the federal government,” she said.
“What we needed to do is to make sure that we had enough for the second vaccine. If the Commonwealth can tell us what their supply is, we are more than happy to roll out the rest of that as quickly as possible.
“But can you imagine what will happen if we do not have the second dosage for people who have had their first in the 12-week period?”
Mr Littleproud told Nine’s Today program that Queensland could have asked the federal government to support its rollout at any point.
“This isn’t about blame, this is about stepping up and owning your mistakes, and owning what you haven’t done,” he said.
“If the federal government hasn’t done their job, we deserve an uppercut. But let me say the states have been sitting on their hands; they’ve been too complacent.”
With Easter plans for millions hanging in limbo because of fears the Brisbane lockdown may be extended, Ms Palaszczuk said Queensland authorities were pleased with Wednesday’s new infection numbers.
They came from more than 33,400 virus tests.
“I think that all Queenslanders should be proud of the mighty effort that they’ve put in,” she said.
Queensland also had one more overseas-acquired COVID case on Wednesday.
Despite the two clusters centred on Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital growing to 17 infections, there are so far no signs of unlinked community transmission of the virus in the city or surrounding areas.
Chief health officer Jeannette Young said the nurse reported in Wednesday’s COVID numbers had been vaccinated. It usually takes about seven days for vaccination, even a single shot, to be effective.
From Wednesday morning, Queensland will require all staff working with coronavirus patients to be vaccinated.
Both of the latest outbreaks involve the more contagious British variant of the virus.
“We had transmission in a hospital resulting to two separate clusters, and those two clusters have happened at the same time, which is a big
risk to manage,” Dr Young said.
“With the first cluster, I didn’t advise the Premier that we needed to lock down, but as soon as we had a second cluster … the numbers were becoming too big to manage.”
Queensland is also treating COVID patients at Bundaberg and Toowoomba hospitals.
But Dr Young would not be drawn on when Brisbane’s lockdown would end – or if it might be widened to take in the Gold Coast.
“We have to wait,” she said. “This is only one day of encouraging results. We need to get more results from today.”
Gold Coast residents are particularly nervous after nine local venues were listed as exposure sites on Tuesday night.
- See all the latest Queensland alert sites here
Ms Palaszczuk said “fingers crossed … If we see very good testing rates across Queensland and we don’t see any unlinked community transmission, the signs for Easter are looking positive”.
The number of exposure sites in Queensland jumped to 81 overnight with alerts for another two venues across the border in the NSW town of Byron Bay.
Known COVID-19 cases have visited venues in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Gladstone, Toowoomba, Hervey Bay and Gin Gin.
The PA Hospital started turning away all but the most critical patients on Wednesday morning.
“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 is testing all staff that have worked in the COVID-19 ward since March 19 with all known virus cases linked to two unvaccinated staff who tested positive there.
The greater Brisbane region has been declared a COVID-19 hotspot by Australian chief medical officer Paul Kelly, who 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.”