A leading epidemiologist has admitted she’s ‘worried’ about Queensland’s new Covid outbreak, fearing that after several near-misses in the Sunshine State the virus may finally start to spiral out-of-control as it has in New South Wales and Victoria.
Professor Nancy Baxter told The Project what makes Tuesday’s four new cases so alarming is that they have all emerged from three different clusters suggesting there may be more infections spreading in the community.
The Delta variant, more contagious than the version of coronavirus detected in Wuhan at the start of the pandemic, is the predominant strain in Australia – which makes it even more difficult to keep outbreaks under control.
The state’s contact tracers are now racing against time to try and stop the virus in time for Sunday’s first-ever NRL Grand Final played in Queensland, with more than 50,000 spectators are set to pack into Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
Professor Baxter warned if other case stop popping up, showing the virus has spread among the community, health chiefs will be left with no choice but to lockdown the city – putting the game in jeopardy.
‘I’m quite worried,’ the University of Melbourne Professor told the program.
‘There are actually three different clusters in the community. One was related to hotel quarantine, but the other two have been in the community while infectious.
‘There was someone who worked in the airline industry and may have been in contact with pilots and there was also a truck driver.
‘The truck driver was at a number of shared accommodations and there are lots of people there that could have been exposed and could have gone on to spread it further.’
The fully-vaccinated aviation training worker from Brisbane, along with his wife, are both mystery cases who have been infectious in the community for at least three days.
An unvaccinated truck driver staying in accommodation with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities is thought to have been infectious in the community for eight days.
The other case is a man who returned a positive test after emerging from hotel quarantine.
Authorities are most concerned about the truck driver who stayed at The Royal Albert and The Metropolitan and the Adalong Guesthouse in South Brisbane.
Queensland has remained relatively free from coronavirus with harsh interstate border measures in place for most of the pandemic.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has opted to call immediate lockdowns at the first sign of any cases in the past but at this stage the government are holding off on a stay-at-home declaration.
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said there is a ‘reasonable level of concern’ about the emerging cases.
‘We will be keeping a very, very close eye on what happens over the next 24 to 48 hours to see if we need additional restrictions,’ she said.
‘At this stage I do not think a lockdown is warranted. That could change,’ she said.
Professor Baxter said the next few days will be critical, particularly with the Penrith Panthers set to take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the rugby-league mad state’s first NRL decider.
‘They will learn a lot of information over the next 24 hours,’ she said.
‘Hopefully they won’t regret that they didn’t go into lockdown sooner, but we need to know a little bit about how things have spread before you make a decision like that.’
She suspects a decision about whether the Grand Final will go ahead with be made by Thursday with an alternative venue in Townsville a possibility.
‘I think they can make that decision quickly, but there will be a number of disappointed fans, because it is not as big a venue,’ Professor Baxter said.
‘Either they will be lucky and there won’t have been transmission or they will be unlucky and there will have been transmission.
‘If there has been (transmission) a lockdown is on the cards and at minimum they’re not going to allow a stadium full of 50,000 screaming fans.’