Queensland Covid update: hospital worker who sparked Covid lockdown confirmed to have Delta variant

By Ben Smee

Large parts of Queensland have begun a snap three-day lockdown, as the unvaccinated Covid-positive hospital worker whose travel from Brisbane to north Queensland triggered the harsh restrictions was confirmed to have the highly contagious Delta variant.

The state’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said the case was “very concerning” given the woman, who worked as a receptionist outside the Covid ward at Brisbane’s Prince Charles hospital, was potentially infectious for more than a week.

In that time she travelled from her home at Sandgate in Brisbane’s north to Magnetic Island. On Sunday she visited markets in Townsville.

The state’s lockdown, which came into effect from 6pm on Tuesday, covers all of south-east Queensland – Brisbane, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Noosa, Redlands, Moreton, Somerset and Logan – as well as Townsville, Magnetic Island and the Indigenous community of Palm Island in north Queensland.

Queensland will now also move to dramatically cut the number of international travellers returning to the state, amid an ongoing row with the federal government about the need for a purpose-built quarantine facility.

The hospital worker was one of four new cases detected in Queensland. Two were in hotel quarantine and one, a child from the Ipswich area, was linked to the Northern Territory outbreak.

Late on Tuesday, Palaszczuk confirmed the hospital worker had the Delta variant but it remained unclear how the she contracted it.

However, the woman’s work – where she was in close proximity to the Covid ward at the Prince Charles hospital in north Brisbane – had caused some concern.

If her infection stemmed from the hospital it would be the fourth instance where a Queensland hospital worker had contracted the virus within the hospital system, following three separate cases linked to the Princess Alexandra hospital.

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Those cases sparked concern that the virus could escape hospital wards and that people could be more susceptible outside, where they may be less vigilant.

Palaszczuk said several of the woman’s contacts – a close friend and two family members – were sick and in the process of being tested.

“Despite the health directives that she should have been vaccinated, she was not,” Palaszczuk said. “Let me say, I am absolutely furious about this. We need to make sure that we are getting our population vaccinated, right across the state.

“This leaves us with no option. There is a lot of contact tracing happening … so the risk is real and we need to act quickly. We need to go hard and we need to go fast.

“I want to say to everyone, I know we are in the middle of school holidays and I know people have made plans, but we have just got to do this.”

Queensland’s deputy premier, Steven Miles, said the continued large number of international arrivals was of concern.

“Our international borders are supposed to be closed but every week thousands of people are allowed to travel,” he said.

“These are putting our community at an unacceptable risk, especially with these new strains which cannot be contained.

“We will now move to dramatically cut the number of international travellers permitted to return to Queensland,” Palaszczuk said.

A group of Australia’s Olympic swimmers has been caught up in Queensland’s outbreak.

While an Olympic swimmers training camp is being held in Cairns, there was a contingent of swimmers who had been in Townsville and Magnetic Island – areas which are under the snap lockdown – before travelling to Cairns on Tuesday.

The swimmers were tested on Tuesday, and will be kept separate from the larger cohort of swimmers gathered in Cairns while they observe the three-day lockdown period.

A Swimming Australia spokesperson said the swimmers were considered “low-risk contacts”.

Meanwhile, the Northern Territory has recorded two more Delta-variant coronavirus cases – the wife and daughter of a worker who left the Granites mine in the Tanami Desert on Friday.

The family, from Palmerston near Darwin, tested positive while in isolation at the Howard Springs quarantine facility.

“We can’t be certain, but we are hopeful that the two new cases became infectious while isolating”, the chief minister, Michael Gunner, said.

There are now nine cases linked to the mine, which started when a Victorian man, who had travelled to the mine on 18 June via a Brisbane quarantine hotel, tested positive on Saturday.

Gunner said the two new cases attended a Zumba class in Palmerston between 9am and 9.30am on Saturday and it was now a close contact exposure site.