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Preparing for the peak: Premier urges Queenslanders to restrict movements over the next six weeks

Queenslanders asked to restrict movements over the next 6 weeks.

PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk has asked Queenslanders to limit their movements for the next six weeks, as the state braces for Omicron’s peak, expected later this month.  

Ms Palaszczuk is encouraging people to work from home, limit outings and avoid large indoor crowds over the next six weeks to help slow the spread of the virus and to reduce pressure on the health system.

“It is going to be a short sharp wave but it’s going to test the resilience of this state and I just want to assure the public that we are working on this every single day and looking at the requirements needed,” she said.

With the return to school coinciding with the expected peak, the Government is working on plans for a possible delay to the start of the school year by two weeks.

“We will not be sending primary school students back during the first week of school if we are heading towards a peak, so we are looking at a one-to-two-week delay in relation to the return to school.”

She said the Government is looking at modelling and will give more concrete decisions over the coming days.

Chief Health Officer, Dr John Gerrard said the Omicron strain continues to become more dominate with 80 to 90 per cent of cases identifying as Omicron.

“Omicron continues to show greater infectivity than the Delta variant, but with less severity.

“Most of the patients we are identifying so far with COVID-19 are in the younger age group so that’s the bulk – the 20-to-30-year age group,” he said.

Dr Gerrard said despite the high number of cases there was still only small numbers of patients in the Intensive Care Unit.

“I believe that the main reason we are seeing so few admissions so far to the Intensive Care Units in Queensland is because of our very high vaccination rates and also because the Omicron strain has become more dominant,” he said.

But the major concern is the increase in hospitalisation over the coming weeks and the demand on the already dire hospital system, hit with serious staff shortages.

“The biggest pressures in the coming weeks as we head towards the end of January, the beginning of February will be the very substantial number of that intermediate group of patients who might require a relatively short stay in hospital, but not requiring critical care.

“We will have much bigger numbers of critical care patients at the peak of this wave but there’s a clear shift from the very severe to the medium severe type of patient that we are going to be seeing,” he said.

Dr Gerrard said that anyone experiencing any respiratory symptoms, including sore throat, running nose, headaches, cough, or fever “should assume they have COVID 19 until proven otherwise.”

“We are not going to stop the spread of this virus, all we are trying to do is to slow it down a little bit, so it doesn’t overwhelm the hospitals and gives more people the opportunity to get their third dose,” he said.

The vaccine rollout continues as Queensland edges closer to 90 per cent fully vaccinated, with the push for booster shots now the goal.

Children aged 5 to 11 are eligible to receive their first dose from next week.

“The illness in children is mild for the vast majority of cases. If I were a parent I would not be unduly concerned,” Dr Gerrard said.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said that one third of tests are coming back positive, but wasn’t the true indication of the number of cases out there.

She outlined five measures to slow the transmission of the virus as Queensland braces for the coming weeks.

  1. Stay at home if you are unwell – if you have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate and assume you’re positive, even if your rapid antigen test is negative as it could return positive at a later time.
  2. Work from home where possible – working from home will help slow down the wave.
  3. Wear a mask – even if you are on holiday, it’s mandatory for everyone to wear a mask indoors and wear them properly (covering your mouth and nose).
  4. Social distance – keep 1.5 metres away from others.
  5. Get vaccinated – whether it’s your first does, second dose or your booster, getting vaccinated is your protection against COVID-19.

With over a million rapid antigen tests coming to Queensland next week, Ms D’Ath said those who have symptoms and are unable to access a rapid antigen test for self-testing should go and get tested at a testing clinic.

Most COVID-positive people experiencing mild illness can isolate at home for a minimum of seven days after receiving a positive test result. Members of the same household will also have to isolate for the same amount of time.

During Omicron’s peak the Care Army will be reactivated to help the isolated and provide support to the most vulnerable.

Queensland will also activate its Disaster Management Group next week, usually set up for natural disasters but now to fight COVID.

“This is a very difficult time for Queensland at the moment, probably the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

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