Lockdown escapees thrust Queensland into Covid scramble
A Melbourne couple has skipped Victoria's lockdown and brought the Covid-19 virus to Queensland with health authorities scrambling to minimise the chance of a potential outbreak.
It's understood the case involving a 44-year-old woman was picked up by sheer luck, with the couple only getting tested so her husband could get a Covid clearance requested by his workplace.
The situation threatens to ruin Queensland's run of no locally acquired cases for nine weeks.
The woman returned the shock positive in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast on Tuesday after leaving Greater Melbourne with her partner on June 1, despite Victoria entering lockdown on May 28.
In response, the Federal Government is bolstering the supply of AstraZeneca vaccines to Sunshine Coast GPs, while anyone with any symptoms has been urged to get tested immediately.
Six close contacts have so far been identified, including the woman's partner who has tested negative.
FULL LIST: Queensland Covid exposure sites revealed
But he has been admitted to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital with the woman given they spent an extended amount of time together while driving.
The other five contacts are quarantining at home on the Sunshine Coast, with authorities expecting their test results back overnight.
The pair drove through NSW and passed into Queensland at Goondiwindi on June 5, with police investigating whether they lied on their border declaration forms.
By that stage, the woman had already lost her sense of smell two days earlier, a known symptom of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
It's believed the couple may have chosen to travel via Goondiwindi because of a stronger police presence on the Gold Coast border, including mobile patrols and automated number plate recognition.
The pair visited a string of venues over four days, including the Goondiwindi McDonald's, a Caltex in Toowoomba and Bunnings and Stocklands at Caloundra.
It's not yet known what variant of Covid the woman is infected with, or whether she was vaccinated.
Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said the couple could be charged with serious offences if they had lied on their border passes.
"Obviously we've got a couple that have come from Victoria when Victoria's in a lockdown, and into Queensland," he said.
All aspects of their trip, including their travel through other states and their Queensland border passes, would be investigated.
Mr Gollschewski said spot checks were occurring on road borders because police could not monitor everyone.
"It's a really important thing for us to remind the whole community we have 20-something-million people in Australia, and when you have a state the size of Victoria that's impacted by this, we cannot possibly check every single person that's moving about the country," he said.
"We rely on the community doing the right thing … and on this occasion we've seen someone come into our state when they're positive with Covid and now have been in the community.
"We need to establish what's happened there."
Gold Coast police Superintendent Rhys Wildman said police were reviewing border arrangements to see if they needed to be strengthened.
Police have previously said they could reinstall border checkpoints within 24 hours if needed. But that is not believed to be under consideration at present.
Results of genome sequencing may provide more details of what variant of the pandemic virus the woman was infected with.
Queensland's chief health officer Jeannette Young is also awaiting blood test results to determine how long the woman has had the infection.
Appealing to Sunshine Coast residents, Dr Young said: "This is the time to come forward and get vaccinated.
"The Commonwealth has been very, very helpful and they've given us double the doses of the vaccine for that part of Queensland.
"Anyone who is 50 years of age or older should go to their GP or go to one of the Commonwealth vaccine clinics and get vaccinated.
"And anyone under 50 should come forward to one of the Queensland Health hubs."
Dr Young said it was too early to be thinking about a potential lockdown.
"The best way to stop any need for a lockdown is that people get tested, come forward and we find any cases," she said.
She said there were no concerns about the State of Origin match going ahead in Townsville last night.
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said Queenslanders knew what to do.
"If you have been to any of the exposure sites, whether you have symptoms or not, we would like you to come forward and get tested," she said.
Queensland recorded two other new cases of the virus on Wednesday, both acquired overseas and detected in hotel quarantine.
It comes as the state will ease restrictions to Victoria and limit the hotspot to just Greater Melbourne from 1am tomorrow (Friday).
This means people outside of Greater Melbourne will be allowed to travel to Queensland again.
It's not yet known when the Sunshine State will reopen travel to Greater Melbourne.
Melbourne will ease out of it's own lockdown restrictions from 11.59pm on Thursday, after Victoria recorded just one new case was announced on Wednesday.
There are 83 Victorian Covid cases in total, with 68 now linked to local outbreaks.
Queensland Health is expected to add to the list of exposure sites as the Melbourne couple provides more information to contact tracers.
Health authorities are expected to provide another update on Thursday morning.
Originally published as Outbreak fears: Lockdown escapees thrust Qld into Covid scramble