Millions of Queenslanders will endure six more days of lockdown as the state fights to contain the most serious COVID-19 threat it has faced in a year.
The state recorded 13 new locally acquired cases of the highly infectious Delta strain on Monday, all linked to a cluster involving high-risk exposure sites including six schools and public transport routes.
A total of 31 cases have been linked to the cluster so far, with Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young expecting many more in the coming days.
Eleven local government areas in the state’s southeast were ordered into a three-day hard lockdown at 4 p.m. on Saturday amid an outbreak that has grown to 31 cases.
Of those, nine local virus cases were reported on Sunday with authorities warning testing numbers of 11,000 tests were only 25 per cent of what’s needed to get a clear picture of the spread.
More than 10,000 people are in isolation and that number is expected to climb.
Young has warned the length of the lockdown will depend on how seriously residents of the southeast corner take her stay-at-home order.
“We need to lock down really, really hard—the hardest we have ever locked down,” she told Queenslanders on Monday. “If you don’t need to leave your house, don’t.”
The cluster began on Thursday with a single positive case involving a 17-year-old student from Indooroopilly State High School. By Saturday, there were six more cases. On Sunday, nine more were added.
Of the 13 new cases reported on Monday seven are students from Ironside State School, five are household or family contacts of those students, and one is linked to a confirmed case associated with a karate school that trains at that school.
One of the new cases was active in the community for six days while infectious, demonstrating the level of risk.
Young also revealed 10 of the 13 cases involve children aged nine and under, noting that younger people with the Delta variant are far more likely to transmit it to other people.
“So I am very worried about those schools.”
Acting Premier Steven Miles said Queensland had never before seen an outbreak involving significant spread amongst students, teachers, parents, extracurricular activities and public transport.
“It will likely see thousands of people subject to home quarantine directions,” he warned.
Miles also said he had no choice but to cancel this year’s Ekka, Queensland’s annual agricultural show, the second time it’s been canned in two years due to the epidemic.
Workers in the locked-down southeast corner have been told they must do their jobs from home if at all possible, and employers have been warned not to misrepresent workers as “essential” staff when they are not.
“I cannot understand why anyone would be in an office today. If you are in an office today, why aren’t you at home?” Dr Young said.
Home learning will begin for state schools on Tuesday, and private schools are making similar arrangements. Schools will remain open for the children of essential workers.
Treasurer Cameron Dick also announced $260 million in financial support for small and medium businesses hit by the public health orders.
Payments of $5000 will be available for businesses hit by the lockdown in southeast Queensland, lockdowns in other states and border closures.
But he warned online application processes were not yet in place, and it could be another fortnight before business owners can begin applying for the money.
Authorities in the regional community of Rockhampton are also on alert after an infected contractor travelled there from Brisbane, for work relating to the Rookwood weir.
Member for Keppel, Brittany Lauga, says students from Mt Morgan State School visited the weir and will be prioritised for testing, along with the contractor’s colleagues.
Two other cases reported on Monday involve crew members of a bulk carrier off the Queensland coast.