Much of Queensland has begun a rapid three-day shutdown as the unvaccinated Covid-positive hospital worker whose journey from Brisbane to North Queensland triggered the harsh restrictions was confirmed to have the highly contagious Delta variant.
State Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said the case was “very concerning” given the woman, who worked as a receptionist outside the Covid ward at Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane, who was potentially infectious for more than a week.
In that time he traveled from his home in Sandgate in North Brisbane to Magnetic Island. On Sunday he visited the Townsville markets.
The state shutdown, which went into effect at 6 p.m. Tuesday, covers all of southeast Queensland: Brisbane, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Noosa, Redlands, Moreton, Somerset and Logan. as well as Townsville, Magnetic Island and the Palm Island Indian community in North Queensland.
Queensland will now also take steps to dramatically reduce the number of international travelers returning to the state, amid an ongoing dispute with the federal government over the need for a specially designed quarantine facility.
The hospital worker was one of four new cases detected in Queensland. Two were in hotel quarantine and one, a child from the Ipswich area, who was linked to the Northern Territory outbreak.
Late on Tuesday, Palaszczuk confirmed that the hospital worker had the Delta variant, but it was unclear how she contracted it.
However, the woman’s work, where she was very close to the Covid ward at Prince Charles Hospital in north Brisbane, had caused some concern.
If her infection came from the hospital, it would be the fourth instance that a Queensland hospital worker contracted the virus within the hospital system, following three separate cases related to Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Those cases raised concerns that the virus could escape hospital wards and that people could be more susceptible outside, where they may be less vigilant.
Palaszczuk said several of the woman’s contacts, a close friend and two family members, were ill and in the process of being examined.
“Despite health directives that she should have been vaccinated, she was not,” Palaszczuk said. “Let me tell you, I am absolutely furious about this. We need to make sure that we are vaccinating our population across the state.
“This leaves us with no option. There is a lot of contact tracing … so the risk is real and we must act quickly. We need to go hard and we have to go fast.
“I want to tell everyone, I know we are in the middle of school holidays and I know people have made plans, but we have to do this.”
Queensland Deputy Prime Minister Steven Miles said the continued large number of international arrivals was cause for concern.
“Our international borders are supposed to be closed, but every week thousands of people can travel,” he said.
“These are putting our community at unacceptable risk, especially with these new strains that cannot be contained.
“We are now going to act to drastically reduce the number of international travelers who are allowed to return to Queensland,” said Palaszczuk.
A group of Olympic swimmers from Australia have been affected by the Queensland outbreak.
While an Olympic swimmers’ training camp is taking place in Cairns, there was a contingent of swimmers who had been to Townsville and Magnetic Island, areas that are under instant lockdown, before traveling to Cairns on Tuesday.
The swimmers were tested on Tuesday and will be kept separate from the larger cohort of swimmers gathered in Cairns as they observe the three-day lockdown period.
A Swimming Australia spokesperson said the swimmers were considered “low-risk contacts.”
Meanwhile, the Northern Territory has recorded two more cases of delta variant coronavirus – the wife and daughter of a worker who left the Granites mine in the Tanami desert on Friday.
The family, from Palmerston, near Darwin, tested positive while in isolation at the Howard Springs quarantine facility.
“We cannot be sure, but we are hopeful that the two new cases would become infectious as they were isolated,” Prime Minister Michael Gunner said.
There are now nine mine-related cases, which began when a Victorian man, who had traveled to the mine on June 18 via a Brisbane quarantine hotel, tested positive on Saturday.
Gunner said the two new cases attended a Zumba class in Palmerston between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Saturday and that it was now a close-contact exposure site.