Brisbane has become a COVID battleground as authorities race to find everyone who could have had contact with two women who have the mutant UK strain.
Brisbane has become a COVID battleground as authorities race to find everyone who could have had contact with two women who have the mutant UK strain.

All eyes on battleground Brisbane

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the state had so far been successful in fighting the pandemic and all eyes were now on Queensland.

A new urgent public health alert was issued late on Saturday evening, ordering anyone who had visited Coles at Sunnybank Hills Shoppingtown on January 5, 7.30am-8am, or Woolworths Calamvale North on January 3, 11am-noon to get tested and quarantine for 14 days.

The Public Health Unit confirmed anyone who attended these venues at these times was now considered to be a close contact with a Brisbane quarantine hotel cleaner who tested positive to the UK variant.

Alerts were also issued for places visited by a COVID-positive woman, who travelled into Brisbane and to the Sunshine Coast while infected with the UK strain, after completing hotel quarantine in Melbourne.

Covid testing underway on the first full day of Brisbane’s three-day lockdown after a cleaner tested positive to the UK Covid-19 strain. Picture: David Clark
Covid testing underway on the first full day of Brisbane’s three-day lockdown after a cleaner tested positive to the UK Covid-19 strain. Picture: David Clark

Ms Palaszczuk said the coming days would be crucial and warned it might not be the last time the mutant strain escapes into the community. She said after fighting the virus all year Queensland was again battling "this dreadful pandemic".

"As if the usual strain wasn't bad enough, now there's a new one and it's made Brisbane its first Australian battleground," she said. "There is only one thing we know for sure about the UK version: it's even more contagious.

"Having fought all year to keep this state safe from the pandemic, all of Australia is now watching us to see if we can be equally successful with this new strain."

The state recorded no new cases of community transmission yesterday, But health officials are working to track down passengers who were on the same Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Brisbane as the latest confirmed case in Queensland.

The woman had flown into Melbourne from the UK on December 26, where she tested positive to COVID-19 and was isolated for the required 10 days before she was cleared to leave Victoria and fly to Queensland.

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said prior to new virus variants emerging states would routinely let people leave isolation if they were 10 days from onset of illness and had three days without symptoms.

Covid testing underway on the first full day of Brisbane’s three-day lockdown after a cleaner tested positive to the UK Covid-19 strain. Picture: David Clark
Covid testing underway on the first full day of Brisbane’s three-day lockdown after a cleaner tested positive to the UK Covid-19 strain. Picture: David Clark

"That is what Victoria did, which was totally in line with agreed national protocols at the time," she said.

The woman arrived in Brisbane on January 5 on Jetstar flight JQ570 at 11pm, before going to Maleny on the Sunshine Coast, where her parents live.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said genomic sequencing from Victoria had shown the woman had the UK variant, prompting health officials in Queensland to test her again - which revealed she was still testing positive.

She said the risk posed by the case was "extremely low".

"And with a normal variant, we would not be at all concerned," Dr Young said. "Ten days is more than sufficient and she is now up to day 15. But because of this new variant, we are just being ultra cautious. "This is very, very, very low risk, but it's not zero risk, so we're just taking all of those precautions."

Queensland Health urged anyone with symptoms who had visited Cappriccio's Italian Pizza Restaurant while getting takeaway and waiting outside on January 6, between 6.30pm and 7pm, to get tested. They have also issued the same advice for those who visited Purple Palate Cellars between 4.15pm and 4.25pm on January 7 as well as Maleny Woolworths supermarket on the same day between 4.30pm and 4.50pm.

Covid testing queues on the first full day of Brisbane’s three-day lockdown after a cleaner tested positive to the UK Covid-19 strain. Picture: David Clark
Covid testing queues on the first full day of Brisbane’s three-day lockdown after a cleaner tested positive to the UK Covid-19 strain. Picture: David Clark

More than 14,700 people rushed to be tested, as police began enforcing tough lockdown restrictions - with three people slapped with $1334 fines for not wearing masks.

There were tense scenes in the city as a man was handcuffed and arrested for not wearing a mask.

It's believed the man had been attempting to join a protest rally at the Botanic Gardens in the Brisbane CBD.

Health officials have now found 91 close contacts of the cleaner who contracted the UK variant of the virus while working in hotel quarantine - with all testing negative. They will be quarantined for 14 days and tested further, but Dr Young said she was still concerned about casual contacts in places the woman visited prior to testing positive.

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said every positive case in Queensland would now undergo genomic testing to determine the person's variant of the virus.

Anyone who tests positive to the new variant will have to take an exit test prior to leaving quarantine. "That will help inform decisions about safe release from isolation," the spokeswoman said. "Whilst there is no current evidence this new variant means people are infectious for longer, we have changed our protocols for the UK and South African variants to require at least 14 days of isolation until further information emerges."

Panic buying of groceries at Skygate Woolworths on Friday, January 8. Picture David Clark
Panic buying of groceries at Skygate Woolworths on Friday, January 8. Picture David Clark

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said she understood the exit testing process was agreed to across the country.

Ms Palaszczuk said officials would assess whether a longer lockdown period would be needed by Monday.

"So let's see what happens on Sunday, let's see what happens on Monday," she said. "These are the crucial three days that we need. The whole country is looking at what happens here in that Greater Brisbane region because we know that this UK strain is incredibly contagious."

Dr Young said it would take "a lot of cases" to prompt a longer lockdown, but insisted officials needed to "wait and see".

Ms Palaszczuk yesterday implored people to not panic-buy during the lockdown, after swarms of people descended on grocery shops as news of the lockdown broke, with police called to monitor the situation.

"We are not going to run out of food," she said. "We have a lot of seniors in our community and it's really important that they get the essential groceries that they need. Please be respectful to supermarket staff as well."

Ms D'Ath acknowledged some people were worried lockdown would go past three days, but said supermarkets had always remained open.

Queensland Health issued an alert after viral fragments of COVID-19 were detected at a wastewater treatment plant at Redcliffe on Friday. "This does not mean we have new cases of COVID-19 in these communities, but we are treating this detection with absolute caution," Dr Young said, urging people in Clontarf, Deception Bay, Kippa-Ring, Margate, Newport, Redcliffe, Rothwell, Scarborough and Woody Point to get tested and isolate if feeling unwell.

Originally published as All eyes on battleground Brisbane



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