72hr test: Three days to avoid month lockdown
Southeast Queensland is at risk of a 30-day lockdown with revelations that an outbreak of community transmission of a mutant strain of the coronavirus would be the trigger for stricter measures.
An unprecedented 72-hour lockdown has been imposed in a desperate bid to contain the highly contagious strain of the virus from the UK, and reaches across the Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Logan, Ipswich and Redlands council areas.
Residents will be forced to remain at home until at least 6pm on Monday and must wear masks in public or risk being slapped with a $200 fine.
Only essential workers are allowed to leave home as well as people seeking medical attention for themselves or vulnerable friends and relatives, or to collect takeaway food and groceries. Exercise is allowed close to home but masks are mandatory.
Anyone caught in breach of the lockdown rules will be hit with a $1300 fine.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the next three days were critical to the state's chances of reopening and acknowledged it would be "tough on everyone", in particular businesses.
"If we do not do this now, it could end up being a 30-day lockdown," Ms Palaszczuk (right) said. "This is incredibly infectious. Please everybody, let's be in this together."
Ms Palaszczuk made no apologies, saying Queensland had to "go hard and go early".
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath warned that delayed action could see "significant, if not catastrophic results".
"Best case scenario is we get to 6pm on Monday and we've had no additional community cases and we would love for that to be the result," Ms D'Ath said.
"It means we can start moving out of restrictions much quicker. But of course worst case scenario is we're seeing more community transmission and looking at everything that could be in between.
"Because it's not just about the numbers of cases. It's also about whether we can trace every one of those - whether there's seeding happening, which means whoever's got it is passing it on to other people in broader areas."
Police across the southeast have stepped up patrols, poised to issue hefty fines to those who breach rules.
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said action was needed now before there were cases of the virus in the community, insisting "we can't put it back in the box" if numbers rose.
"It will be too late if on Monday I stand up here in front of you and say we've had 10 cases and they've been out in the community infecting people," she said.
"We have to act really, really fast. We need to find every single case now."
The lockdown was announced after a cleaner who worked in hotel quarantine at the Hotel Grand Chancellor tested positive to the virus on Wednesday.
Ms Palaszczuk said health authorities had now tracked down about 79 close contacts of the cleaner, who has been praised by Ms Palaszczuk for doing "everything right".
Dr Young said the lockdown had been put in place for three days so they could find those people who may have come into contact with the woman, saying "we can't relax" until they have been found.
"The good thing is that this lady hasn't been to any restaurants or cafes and … we know they are such critical areas for spread," she said.
"And we know people have already started responding - over 13,000 tests done yesterday (Thursday) which is exceptional."
Other states responded quickly to the southeast Queensland lockdown with WA yesterday imposing a hard border closure on the entire Sunshine State, while NSW authorities will force visitors or return travellers from Brisbane to self-isolate for three days. The Northern Territory declared Greater Brisbane a COVID hotspot.
In the Brisbane District Court yesterday, Judge Michael Burnett referred to the possibility of lockdown being extended.
"I've been told if there's a community transmission, another one identified, between now and Monday, there will be a 21-day lockdown," he said, while warning trials may be impacted.
"It's speculation at this stage, but that's the information I have to hand."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised the "wise" decision to lock Brisbane down, saying it was the first time Australia had faced a case of the UK variant in the community.
"(The UK COVID strain) moves so quickly - far more quickly than previous strains of the virus - and that means we need to give our contact tracers that head start to ensure that they can track down and run down all of the contacts from this individual and ensure that they can be identified, isolated and that people in the appropriate places can get the testing," he said.
Mr Morrison acknowledged people in Brisbane would be questioning why a lockdown was required for just one case but insisted it was not "any ordinary case". "This is a very special case and one that requires us to treat things quite differently until we know more and we will learn much in the next few days," he said.
Guest limits at weddings will be set to 10 people, while 20 people will be allowed to attend a funeral - and grocery stores will continue to sell food over the weekend.
Federal Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the three-day period chosen by the Queensland government was "really important".
"It's about giving our contact tracers enough time to make those connections, to make sure anyone who needs to be isolated is isolated, to do the testing, and then to reconsider," he said.
There were nine new cases of COVID-19 recorded in Queensland yesterday, all were in hotel quarantine.
Originally published as 72hr test: Three days to avoid month lockdown