Queensland has blasted the federal government’s vaccination program and rules for returned travellers as it confirmed three more local cases of coronavirus on the first full day of a snap lockdown.
One of Wednesday’s cases is the teenage brother of the unvaccinated Prince Charles Hospital worker whose COVID infection was confirmed on Tuesday.
Queensland authorities say the receptionist caught the virus from a returning traveller who had been transiting regularly between Australia and Indonesia.
Tracing has shown the woman has the same form of the Delta variant as that traveller, who was treated at the hospital. The receptionist was stationed outside its coronavirus ward.
“The person who brought the virus into Queensland was a regular traveller, not a vulnerable Australian returning home – a regular traveller who was unvaccinated,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
“We are at a pressure cooker moment at the moment. Right across Australia, it’s like a pressure cooker. We got to relieve that pressure. What are the levers we can pull to relieve that pressure? We can lower the caps, make sure the people coming in are vaccinated.”
Ms Palaszczuk said the federal government had serious questions to answer about the risk such travel posed to the country.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the Coalition government’s claims that borders were closed was a farce, and thousands of people were being allowed to travel here “who are not stranded Aussies”.
He said Bureau of Statistics figures showed that 20,000 non-Australians arrived in Australia in May – “half of those on short-term temporary visas”. They also included 3330 on temporary visitor visas, 4650 on other temporary visas.
“We have no idea how many of those people are vaccinated. We do know that many of those people will have COVID-19,” Mr Miles said.
“The borders are not genuinely closed. And these travellers are displacing Australians who are genuinely stranded.”
Of Wednesday’s other local cases in Queensland, one is linked to the cluster at Brisbane’s Portuguese Family Centre and the third is a co-crew member of the Virgin Australia employee who worked on several flights while infectious at the weekend.
Ms Palaszczuk said all had been in quarantine and were considered low risk for further infection.
“This is very good news,” she said.
Millions of people in south-east Queensland, Townsville, Magnetic Island and Palm Island are in lockdown until at least Friday after the 19-year-old hospital worker, who lives in Brisbane’s north, visited while infectious.
More than 18,000 COVID tests were done in Queensland on Tuesday, and nearly 17,000 vaccines delivered.
Ms Palaszczuk also again urged Queenslanders to get vaccinated against the virus – but took at swipe at Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement that the AstraZeneca shot would become available for under-40s.
“It is very clear that national cabinet did not make that decision. I like to ask the Prime Minister, did his cabinet make that decision?” she said.
“In Queensland, we always follow the advice of the chief health officer. So, I urge Queenslanders to listen to Dr [Jeanette] Young.”
Dr Young also urged Queenslanders to line up for vaccines – but not for the AztraZeneca dose if they were under 40.
“I do not want under-40s to get AstraZeneca,” she said.
“It is rare, but they are at increased risk of getting the rare clotting syndrome. We’ve seen up to 49 deaths in the UK from that syndrome. I don’t want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got COVID probably wouldn’t die.”
Dr Young also urged anyone who had had one dose of a virus vaccine to get a second dose of the same one.
Ms Palaszczuk said her government’s proposed quarantine facility at Toowomba – which has been rejected by the federal government – could have been operating, to take the pressure off hotel quarantine.
In addition, she said, vulnerable travellers should be managed by the federal government and sent to its quarantine facility at Howard Springs.
“It’s overseas arrivals bringing this Delta virus into our state,” she said.
Queensland Health has also updated exposure sites after the most recent cases. The latest sites can be found here.