"Wake-up call" for the Gold Coast as rideshare driver tests positive to COVID-19

"Wake-up call" for the Gold Coast as rideshare driver tests positive to COVID-19

An unvaccinated Gold Coast-based rideshare driver in his 30s is reportedly too sick and breathless from COVID-19 to fully assist Queensland Health officials with contact tracing, but it is believed the Broadbeach resident may have contracted the virus while interstate in Melbourne on 10 October and was infectious in the community for 10 days.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young told a press conference in Mackay this morning that it was difficult to get answers from the individual due to their condition, and the fact he has not used the QR check-in app since 18 September.

The news comes as the Sunshine State prepares for a vaccination blitz on Saturday in a bid to improve jab rates that are lagging behind the rest of the country, thus putting the state at a much higher risk of outbreaks and hospitalisations upon reopening.

Dr Young said the new case lives in an apartment complex in Broadbeach and started developing COVID-19 symptoms on 11 October, which means his infectious period dates back to 9 October.

She said he presented to the emergency department of Robina Hospital yesterday, where two separate COVID-19 tests returned positive results.

"So he then was transferred later that evening to the Gold Coast University Hospital where he is now. He lives by himself, he works as an Uber driver, so we're working very closely with Uber who have been excellent this morning to get information about whether he has had any drives during the time that he was infectious," Dr Young said.

"He is so sick that he is having difficulty communicating with us and difficulty remembering as you can imagine. So this was very difficult for him, but it is also very difficult for the Gold Coast community because I can't give you those areas that he's been."

A spokesperson for Uber claims the driver has not driven with the platform since 19 September.

"We work with public health authorities in each state, and have processes in place to temporarily remove an individual’s access to the Uber app if authorities report an infection," the spokesperson said.

"We may also limit other individuals’ access to the app if health authorities advise there is a risk.

"The well-being of those who use the Uber platform is a key priority for us, and we have a dedicated team working around the clock to support them the very best we can."

Dr Young urged anyone from the Gold Coast with any symptoms at all to come forward for testing.

"Please don't wait like this poor gentleman has," she said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk described the latest case as a "wake-up call" for the city, where 156,000 eligible people are still unvaccinated out of a population of more than 710,000 including ineligible children.

Dr Young clarified there are also a further 20,000 kids aged 12-15 who haven't yet been vaccinated.

"People who are not vaccinated, you can go this Saturday to Pimpama State Secondary College, Upper Coomera State College, Southport State High School, Palm Beach Currumbin State High School, Coombabah State High School, Nerang State High School, Varsity College, Miami State High School, Elanora State High School, or Helensvale State High School," the Premier said.

"We need people to be vaccinated. If you are unvaccinated you are more than likely ending up very sick from COVID or in hospital or in ICU (intensive care unit). I don't want to see that happen to residents across Queensland.

"Come on and get vaccinated, and support our super Saturday vaccination blitz."

While the push is on for people around the state to get vaccinated, Dr Young urged Gold Coast residents to do so immediately.

"We've got a 10-day window to get every everyone vaccinated because then you'll be fully protected when we open up our borders in December, so this is so important," the CHO said.

The Premier said 73.12 per cent of Queenslanders have had their first dose of the vaccine, and 58.07 per cent have had their second dose.

"I'm absolutely concerned about regional Queensland. So in Mackay these showgrounds here can do up to 500 doses a day on average but it can actually ramp up to 900," she said.

"Mackay's vaccination rate is 66.4 per cent first dose and 49.5 per cent second dose...but I am concerned about some of the regions' vaccination rates, for example Bowen - 48.4 per cent have had their first dose."

She noted some areas that are major tourism hubs had low vaccination rates as well, including Proserpine (67.2 per cent) and the Whitsundays (63 per cent).

"We know Mackay and Proserpine and the Whitsundays are absolutely gateways to tourism, and we know that on the 17th of December  there will be tourists coming here from all around Australia, so please, please go and get vaccinated."

Updated at 10:54am AEST on 21 October 2021.

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