Australian State Warns of Impending COVID-19 ‘Emergency’

By Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang is a health writer for The Epoch Times, based in New York. She mainly covers stories on COVID-19 and the healthcare system and has a bachelors in biomedicine from The University of Melbourne. Contact her at
January 6, 2022Updated: January 7, 2022

Queensland Chief Health Officer John Gerrard has warned that the Australian state will face a “major emergency” in the coming weeks with modelling projecting a peak in cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus around late January, early February.

“We are going to be stepping up to a very major emergency in the coming two to three weeks,” Gerrard told reporters in Brisbane on Jan. 6.

However, he reasoned that the news was also somewhat positive in that the peak would be short-lived.

“When that emergency drags on for a long time that is much more draining to deal with. So, there’s an upside and downside to this,” he said.

The state may also call on asymptomatic COVID-19-positive Queensland Health staff to work in hospital wards as part of contingency plans being discussed in preparation for the upcoming emergency period, Gerrard said.

“It’s certainly something that has been discussed,” he said. “It isn’t being done at the moment but that’s something that’s the sort of thing we are we are making plans for—contingency plans.”

Queensland’s healthcare sector, already understaffed due to workers testing positive or in isolation whilst waiting for test results, have been further stressed by the rising Omicron cases.

“The whole health and aged care system, public and private, in our country is under unprecedented strain and we need a coordinated and holistic response,” wrote the Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) in a statement to the Epoch Times.

“Staff are experiencing intense pressure and working incredibly hard to meet the needs of Queensland patients under difficult circumstances.”

But understaffing only results in further increased workloads and reduced nurse-to-patient ratios.

The state of New South Wales (NSW), which borders Queensland to the south, has already been calling asymptomatic COVID-19-positive health staff, such as nurses, who are classified as critical to the service, back from isolation to work due to staff shortages.

“NSW Health staff furloughed because they’ve been a close contact with a COVID-19 case are not necessarily ill or presenting symptoms when they’re placed into isolation,” a NSW Health spokesperson said in a statement on Jan. 6.

“Exemptions will occur only in exceptional circumstances, including where it is necessary to ensure the continued delivery of essential health services.”

Meanwhile, Gerrard said the government’s goal was to slow down but not stop the virus to give people a chance to get a booster shot, while also not overwhelming Queensland’s hospital system.

The Omicron wave has seen multi-hour-long waiting times for PCR tests across the country, with reports of people suffering the consequences of a lack of toilet amenities at testing sites in Brisbane, Queensland’s capital.

To ease pressure, the governments of Australia have changed testing requirements in order to reduce queue waiting times.

The Queensland government has told people to accept the results of their at-home rapid antigen tests without the need to follow up with a PCR test, and even to assume they have COVID-19 and stay home to isolate if they have any symptoms.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Jan. 7 that a hotline will become active for residents to self-report their rapid antigen test results, with a website version soon to follow, to allow for data collection about case numbers after the rule change.

The news comes as Palaszczuk announced plans to delay the return of primary students to school, with the peak expected to come at around the start time of the new school term.

“We’re doing modelling in relation to the peak of this Omicron wave and let me assure parents that we will not be sending primary school students back during the first week of school if we are heading towards a peak,” she told reporters on Jan. 7.

“We are looking to a one-to-two-week delay in relation to the delay to school.”