As Queensland records its second day of no new locally acquired COVID-19 cases with 10 days passed since the last known infectious person was in the community, the state government has made key announcements around quarantine and its vaccine strategy.
While Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young highlighted a push to administer more vaccines along the border as a line of defence as the virus spreads in regional NSW, Deputy Premier Steven Miles revealed good news for the state's quarantine future.
"I'm very pleased to report that the Premier has now signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Government to allow them to proceed with the construction of their proposed Australian Government quarantine facility at Pinkenba," Miles said.
"I want to thank officials of Queensland Government agencies and the Australian Government for working so closely together. They really worked around the clock to get to this point, and were informed by a very detailed feasibility study by consultants AECOM.
The 1,000-bed quarantine facility will be built at the defence site of the 30-hectare Damascus Barracks, which will be operated by the Queensland Government upon completion.
"We need it as soon as possible It's never been more urgent to have facilities like this one. At this stage we anticipate it being ready by around the middle of next year," Miles said.
"We continue to urge the Commonwealth to work with us on additional quarantine facilities, including in regional areas, that might be able to take pressure off our hotel quarantine system," the Deputy Premier.
He said this was needed given the "countless breaches from the nation's hotel quarantine system", with the Queensland Government also supporting a regional quarantine facility at Wellcamp, west of Toowoomba.
"Until all Australians have been offered a vaccination, quarantine facilities will remain Australia's frontline in preventing deadly new strains of COVID-19 from entering our community," Miles said.
The Commonwealth Department of Finance identified the Damascus Barracks as a suitable site, due to its size, access to an international airport, proximity to a principal referral (tertiary) hospital and because it is Commonwealth owned.
In terms of what life will continue look like in Queensland for the week ahead, Dr Young said current mask rules would apply until this coming Sunday, 22 August, at 4pm, and asked residents in the state's southeast to remain vigilant.
"We know that if there was a missed case out there who was, say, asymptomatic, they could have passed it on, so we just have to remain a little bit cautious for that [sic] remaining days with our restrictions, " she said.
Over the weekend rules were put in place that people could only cross the border from NSW into QLD for obtaining essential goods and services that could not reasonably be obtained in NSW - a tighter restriction that will be in place for at least seven days.
"You will remember 18 months ago there was that modelling, those predictions that once there was a significant outbreak that was not under control in another state, it would steadily move out into the rest of the nation, and that's what we're seeing out of Sydney.
"We know that will continue to creep towards our border, so it's really, really important that anyone who normally crosses the border to go into New South Wales or comes from New South Wales into Queensland, really thinks hard."
As an additional precaution, as of Friday 20 August all essential travellers going north across the border will need to have had at least one dose of their COVID-19 vaccination.
"We are extremely concerned about the possibility of this virus coming into Queensland, so we will take every precaution we possibly can. We've heard reports today that that the Victorian lockdown could be extended, and we know that the New South Wales lockdown will be several months," Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
NSW reported "disturbingly high" numbers of 478 according to the state's Premier Gladys Berejiklian, while Dubbo has emerged as a location of concern, including for Aboriginal communities where vaccination rates are low.
"Queensland is now the only state on the mainland east coast of Australia that is open. For us to keep it this way we need to do everything possible to keep the virus out, and we need to do everything possible to prepare for the next outbreak," Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said.
D'Ath said more vaccine doses would be arriving from the Federal Government, with a particular focus on the outer ring of Brisbane where areas such as Caboolture and Logan are seeing low vaccination take-up. The border region is also a key part of the current approach, according to Dr Young.
"The other thing we've been doing is we've been pushing more doses of vaccine to all of those communities along our border, so from Gold Coast extending all the way across to the South Australian border," Dr Young said.
"Some of them are 52 per cent of the people having had at least one dose of vaccine in that 16-year-old plus age group. So we're targeting 70 per cent but of course I want everyone to have that opportunity."
Updated at 10:56am AEST on 16 August 2021.
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