The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has announced a new case of community transmission of Covid-19, after a 26-year-old man tested positive to the virus on Friday, prompting her to call on the federal government to half international arrival numbers to the state.
The new case was a close contact of the 26-year-old who lived in a separate household, she said, adding that the weekend would prove “critical” to controlling spread. Meanwhile 18 close contacts of the new case had been identified, with four so far returning a negative test result.
The first case, who works outdoors as a landscaper, began to develop symptoms on Monday. He isolated afterwards and subsequently returned two positive tests, and had the more infectious variant of the virus first identified in the UK.
“I’m asking the prime minister to halve our number of overseas returning travellers,” Palaszczuk said on Saturday.
Currently, about 1,300 international travellers are returning to Queensland each week.
“We are just asking for the next two weeks while we get everything under control, and the fact that we are seeing these every single day, we are getting positives out of hotel quarantine,” Palaszczuk said, adding that a lockdown was not yet on the cards.
“We’re not seeing large-scale immunity transmission, just close contacts.
“We are very comfortable with things as they are at the moment and Queenslanders have responded very well.”
But health authorities were concerned. There were six new cases recorded on Saturday, five from overseas in hotel quarantine, along with the new community case linked to the landscaper.
Meanwhile 71 active cases were being treated in hospital, which Palaszczuk said was close to the number being treated at the peak of the pandemic one year ago.
“We’re almost at the capacity of our hospitals that we were at the peak of the pandemic,” she said. “That is not to say our hospitals cannot cope – they will be able to cope – but this is a large influx that we are seeing, and the high rate of people coming back are returned travellers.”
Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeanette Young, urged the public to get tested, and said the latest case lived in Strathpine in the Moreton Bay region.
“We are talking to him at the moment to find where he has been … that information will be available later today and we will put that on our website,” Young said. “Thank you to every single person who came forward and got tested yesterday. There were triple the number of people who normally get tested on average in Brisbane who came forward and got tested. Please could people continue to do that. Any symptoms at all, particularly if you live in Brisbane or Moreton Bay, please come forward and get tested. It’s important.”
Genomic testing has linked the new cases to a cluster earlier in March in which a doctor at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra hospital become infected. The doctor visited four venues in the city’s south while she was infectious.