Strict new testing to stop cracks in COVID shield
Hotel quarantine workers in Queensland will now be tested every seven days in a bid to shut down the weak spot in Australia's COVID-19 shield, slashing the risk of another South Australia or Melbourne-like outbreak.
Despite recording just two more cases overnight, South Australia has entered a severe six-day lockdown in a bid to break the chain of transmission as contract tracers race against the clock.
South Australians will be ordered to stay at home for six days, with schools, takeaway shops, cafes and restaurants shut down, weddings and funerals banned, no outdoor exercise, while workplaces including construction, real estate and most manufacturing will also stop.
Queensland recorded one case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, which was acquired overseas and detected in hotel quarantine.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said hotel quarantine was now the biggest risk for new outbreaks in Australia.
He said the states had agreed to the mandatory weekly test for all workers connected to the facilities.
"Hotel quarantine is our main game. When you think about what's happening overseas, over 55 million cases now, there are enormous numbers in many countries," he said.
"We expect some of the people that come back at this time will be infected and can be infectious.
"Anyone in close contact, even with the very best precautions can be at risk, so that is why we have really honed in on that particular risk."
The Palaszczuk Government has backed the plan and is working through the detail to get the testing regime in place.
Queensland Health already takes more precautions than the other states, including routinely moving positive COVID-19 cases out of hotels into hospital.
This is compared to other states where positive cases are routinely managed in hotels.
Queensland, WA, Tasmania and the Northern Territory rushed to put up borders to Adelaide when the outbreak was first reported.
But the state has yet to meet the national definition of a hotspot, with only 22 positive cases in the cluster.
NSW and Victoria have not implemented a border closure, but urged residents not to travel to SA.
Prof Kelly said the new measures enforced by SA made border decisions a "moot point".
"All South Australia's will be staying at home, they won't be going across any borders," he said.
Gold Coast MP and senior Minister Karen Andrews joined a chorus of business and tourism sector criticism of the snap border closures, saying the state could not keep defaulting to closing borders at the first sign on an outbreak.
"Shutting things down at the drop of a hat is crushing confidence and making tourists hesitant to make plans for the holiday season," she said.
"Gold Coast businesses are really hurting, and we need to be doing what we can to support them in a safe way, rather than constantly moving the goalposts."
It comes as Queensland Senator Matt Canavan urged the state government to drop restrictions on church gatherings by Christmas.
Places of worship currently have to stick to the one person per 2 square metres rule, while 52,000 people attended the State of Origin at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
Senator Canavan said if a stadium could be returned to full capacity, places of worship should get the same consideration.
"Football is great, but the freedom to practice your faith is more important," he said.
"I can't speak for others, but I do a lot more yelling and screaming at the football than I do at mass. Wouldn't contact sport be a higher risk than communion?"
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath hit back at Ms Andrews and Mr Canavan, citing the six-day lockdown South Australia announced.
"Queensland's economy is open and our restrictions easing because of this state's excellent health response. But it requires constant vigilance," she said.
"We put our faith in the expertise of people like Dr Jeannette Young, not the likes of Matt Canavan, because that's what has kept Queensland safe.
"These reckless comments from the LNP show a total disregard for the health of all Queenslanders."
Originally published as Strict new testing to stop cracks in COVID shield