Australia’s top doctor has warned that the country is facing as high a risk of COVID-19 transmission as it has at any other time of the pandemic, as restrictions ease but vaccinations lag.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly urged Australians as they look forward to Easter gatherings to keep practicing cough etiquette and social distancing where possible.

“The more people that can be vaccinated, particularly those in very vulnerable groups, the more we will be happy that small outbreaks can be controlled,” Professor Kelly said.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has warned Australians not to let their guard down. (Dominic Lorrimer)

“At the moment, we are in a situation where we are at as high a risk as we have been since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Professor Kelly said the interlapping of the vaccine rollout and easing travel and gathering restrictions means the potential for rapid outbreaks to spread is high.

“We know as we mostly open and there are very few restrictions on our movement, on the things we can do as a society, that means that the outbreaks can spread quickly,” Professor Kelly said.

“So that’s why that very strong public health response is absolutely crucial at the moment, and the more vaccine that gets out there, the more people that are protected, that will decrease the outbreaks in the spread over the coming months.”

Professor Kelly’s warning comes as Queensland records a spike of eight new coronavirus cases.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said six of the new cases are close contacts of known infections, with another two under investigation.

There were two overseas-acquired cases, both from Papua New Guinea. There are now 78 active cases in Queensland hospitals.

Beyond Blue’s Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service is a 24/7 service free of charge to all Australians. Visit the site here or call 1800512348
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