Lockdown ends in south-east Queensland but Cairns residents ordered to stay home due to mystery case

State records nine local cases as Cairns taxi driver found to be infectious in the community for 10 days

South-east Queensland is emerging from a week-long lockdown as Cairns residents are plunged into a snap lockdown of their own after a local taxi driver was found to have been infectious in the community for 10 days with Covid.

Queensland reported nine new local cases on Sunday with the greater south-east region exiting its lockdown at 4pm as scheduled – although some restrictions will remain in place for two weeks including mandatory mask-wearing.

But the taxi driver’s positive result will send the Cairns and Yarrabah local government areas (LGAs) into a snap three-day lockdown until 4pm on Wednesday.

Seven of the nine cases announced on Sunday were not infectious in the community and are linked to the Indooroopilly cluster in western Brisbane, which has grown to a total of 111 cases.

There was one person who tested positive on the Gold Coast but Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeanette Young, said they had “a very high CT value” meaning they didn’t have a lot of virus and authorities were not overly concerned.

“We are waiting to get a whole genome sequence on it to see what it might be, and the family has worked with us every step of the way and they are in isolation and we have tested everyone else and a family multiple times ... and all of that is negative,” Young said.

The 11 south-east LGAs exiting lockdown include: the City of Brisbane, City of Gold Coast, City of Ipswich, Lockyer Valley Regional Council, Logan City, Moreton Bay Region, Noosa Shire Council, Redland City, Scenic Rim Regional Council, Somerset Regional Council, and Sunshine Coast Regional Council.

The premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, who this morning finished 14 days in quarantine after returning from the Tokyo Olympics, said while the lockdown would end, some restrictions would remain, and the state was “not out of the woods”.

“I just want everyone to have a really good understanding that we are dealing with the Delta strain,” she said. “It is highly, highly infectious, and I can tell you from my conversations in Tokyo, with people around the world, this strain is sweeping the world.”

People in the 11 LGAs will be required to wear masks at all times, except when they are at home, eating or drinking, or exercising with their household or one other person.

While schools will reopen, all school and daycare staff, as well as high school students, will be required to wear masks. While school sport will be allowed to go ahead, community sport will be prohibited.

Residents will be able to have 10 people in their homes, including the people who live there. Up to 20 guests will be allowed at weddings and funerals, and businesses and venues will be allowed to reopen at a capacity of one person per four square metres or 50% capacity.

South-east residents are also being urged not to visit regional Queensland.

The deputy police commissioner, Steve Gollschewski, reminded residents that officers would be enforcing the rules after the lockdown lifted.

“There are still a lot of people out there who do not carry and wear masks,” he said. “I am going to bang on about this endlessly: please make sure you are wearing a mask, and take it with you.”

In Cairns and Yarrabah, residents will only be allowed to leave their homes for four reasons: to obtain essential goods within 10km of their home; for essential work, school or childcare; to exercise; or to get healthcare, including getting a Covid-19 vaccine. Residents must wear masks whenever they are outside their homes.

They will only be allowed two visitors to their homes. Funerals and weddings will be restricted to 20 people.

Young said the Cairns case posed a huge risk to the community, with a number of the man’s family members unwell and being tested.

The risk posed by the Delta variant has also convinced authorities to prioritise vaccinations for daycare and school staff, fly-in fly-out workers, and freight and distribution centre workers.

Palaszczuk said those groups have been added to the “high-risk” category meaning they will go to the front of the vaccination queue.

“The Delta strain has taken a heavy toll on our schools and we need to provide the best possible protection for staff and students,” the premier said.

More than 11,000 people remain in home quarantine across the state, mostly in western Brisbane.


Justine Landis-Hanley

The GuardianTramp

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