THE state government is ­calling for a Papua New Guinea mine linked to five new COVID cases in Cairns to tighten its screening practices to prevent more plane-loads of potential cases arriving.

All of the new cases were detected in hotel quarantine.

Flights between the mine site and Cairns in the coming days have been cancelled.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the government had been working with the Ok Tedi copper mine, which had recorded several positive cases.

"Most of them have been treated in Cairns and that's pushed their resources," Dr Young said.

A sign warning of COVID-19 dangers at the front of the Cairns Hospital. Picture: Brendan Radke
A sign warning of COVID-19 dangers at the front of the Cairns Hospital. Picture: Brendan Radke

 

"The Ok Tedi mine management have been excellent and they've cancelled the flights that were planned over the next week or so, so we can work all this through."

The company runs charter flights in and out of the mine site between Cairns and Tabubil for Far North workers.

Member for Cairns Michael Healy said the state government was in discussions with Ok Tedi about introducing protocols to check people for COVID before boarding a plane to Australia.

"If you look at the mines across Queensland, they have continued to operate with the appropriate protocols," he said.

Member for Cairns Michael Healy in front of the Cairns Hospital emergency department. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Member for Cairns Michael Healy in front of the Cairns Hospital emergency department. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

"As a state government, we can't dictate with a PNG mine as to how they execute their protocols ... but we can't have plane-loads of infected people coming in to Australia.

"Identifying people infected before they board will help reduce the number of cases coming in."

Mr Healy said Cairns residents shouldn't be concerned about the influx of new cases spreading into the community, saying the current quarantine protocols were working as intended.

However, he said the Cairns Hospital would be unable to cope if the number of new cases kept rising, taking a potshot at Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch's push for Cairns to become a quarantine city.

"The hospital tells me everything is under control with the current cases and there is no increased risk, and our frontline staff is being looked after," he said.

A long line of people forms at the Cairns Hospital fever clinic for COVID-19 coronavirus testing. Picture: Brendan Radke
A long line of people forms at the Cairns Hospital fever clinic for COVID-19 coronavirus testing. Picture: Brendan Radke

"This is why we didn't want Cairns to be a quarantine city - we have one public hospital that provides emergency services, elective surgeries and is an essential component of our community. We need to keep its operations to serve the people of this region."

Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service said in a statement that ­Tropical Public Health Services were following up with contacts, while the remaining cases would go into hospital isolation.

Ok Tedi mine was contacted for comment, but did not respond in time for the Cairns Post's deadline.

In Brisbane, travellers who served mandatory quarantine on a floor of the Mercure Hotel over four days last month are being urged to get tested immediately due to a growing cluster among recent arrivals from a Qatar Airways flight.

Originally published as Call for new worker protocols at mine linked to COVID cases



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