QLD flags "major concerns" over high COVID rates in PNG

QLD flags "major concerns" over high COVID rates in PNG

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk hopes to speak with Prime Minister Scott Morrison within the next 24 hours after tests in neighbouring Papua New Guinea (PNG) revealed much higher than expected rates of COVID-19.

The state's authorities have already fast-tracked vaccinations in the Torres Strait amidst the worsening situation in PNG.

"We have major concerns now about what is happening in Papua New Guinea," Premier Palaszczuk said in a press conference this morning.

"We have been assisting with some tests in Papua New Guinea, and out of the 500 tests that our health authorities have done for Papua New Guinea, 250 have come back positive.

"Papua New Guinea is on the doorstep of the Torres Strait and Queensland, and I hope that I'll be able to speak to the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister's office in the next 24 hours just to talk about our concerns there."

She said conversations would look at incoming flights from PNG, as well as the issue of many Queenslanders who work or live in the country.

Queensland Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Sonya Bennett said the circumstances called for a coordinated response.

"I think there's an issue there for the Federal Government. I understand that they are providing some assistance into Papua New Guinea, but maybe we need to look at a vaccine roll-out program there as well," she said.

"It's right on our doorstep and it is a real risk, and as you know that's why we're getting our Torres Strait Islanders vaccinated as quickly as possible.

"I think we have to look at the flights. We know that the charter flights from Ok Tedi mine have already been suspended."

QLD community transmission update

The Sunshine State is also getting on top of any potential outbreak after its 59-day streak of no community transmission was broken on Friday, 12 March with a doctor from the Princess Alexandra (PA) Hospital testing positive to the virus

The individual had contact with COVID-positive patients in the early hours of 10 March, and tests indicate a low level of the virus which means they may have only been infectious in the community for around one day on 11 March.

A public health alert was issued on Saturday for four locations the doctor visited on 11 March - the Morning After Café in West End, Corporate Box Gym in Greenslopes and the Stones Corner Hotel, as well as the McDonald's Drive-Thru on Old Cleveland Road, Coorparoo.

The doctor's closest contacts have all tested negative to the coronavirus, but the Premier says 24 hours are still needed to see if there's any community transmission spread from the case.

QLD reported six new cases of COVID-19 today, all in hotel quarantine and none of them in the Hotel Grand Chancellor, which was put into lockdown over the weekend after there appeared to be contagion between guests on one floor, two of whom were patients seen by the doctor who became infected.

All guests who were on that floor between 5-9 March will be asked to go into quarantine and be tested again. People who stayed on other floors during that period will also be asked to get a test and isolate until they receive a negative result.

"All staff are tested daily through saliva tests and we have had no positive in staff, so that's very reassuring, but we're also retesting staff today through the usual gold standard nasal swab testing as well just to be sure," Dr Bennett said.

"There's also a lot of work to understand what the event may have been. We've seen this before - we know that some people are highly infectious and that is likely the case in this instance, and can transmit the virus through very little exposure."

QLD now has 38 active cases of COVID-19.

NSW update

On Saturday night NSW Health was notified of a new case of COVID-19 in a security guard who has been working in the hotel quarantine system and is now in isolation.

All four household contacts of this case have so far tested negative for COVID-19, and will self-isolate for a fortnight.

NSW Health has noted the security guard visited Pancakes on the Rocks in the Sydney suburb of Beverly Hills between 10:45am and noon on 13 March, and calls on anyone who was there at the time to be tested and isolate for 14 days regardless of the result.

Authorities have also listed venues and public transport routes where people who were present at the indicated times should monitor for symptoms and get tested should they appear.

  • Bexley Aquatic Centre, 9-9:30am on 13 March
  • Dae Jang Kum Korean restaurant, Haymarket at 12:15-12:20am on 13 March
  • 7 Eleven, Haymarket at 12:20-12:25am on 13 March
  • Hudson's Coffee Shop, Hurstville Private Hospital at 8:30-9am on 8, 9, 10, 11 & 12 March
  • Coles, Hurstville Station at 8-9pm on 10 March
  • T4 line, Hurstville to Central on 12 March, departing 6pm Hurstville and arriving Central at 6:30pm
  • T4 line, Central to Hurstville on 13 March, departing Central 7am and arriving Hurstville at 7:30am

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said 8,000 people were tested on Saturday.

"The fact that we went 55 days without a case is almost miraculous during a pandemic," she said.

Global update

Globally, Brazil overtook India as the second-worst hit country by COVID-19 over the weekend with close to 11.5 million total cases and more than 278,000 deaths. This is out of a global total that has now surpassed 120 million and 2.67 million deaths.

Many nations likely have vastly underreported cases of the virus but the USA has by far the highest number of active cases at 7.37 million, followed by France (3.7 million), Brazil (1.14 million), Belgium (728,518) and the UK (635,997).

In terms of the vaccine roll-out Israel is the global leader, far ahead of the next most-vaccinated country the UAE which has almost 66 out of every 100 people vaccinated, then the UK (37/100), Chile (34/100) and the US (32/100).

Updated at 9:41am AEST on 15 March 2021.

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