Outbreak could reach Sydney levels as lockdown continues

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A leading infectious diseases expert has warned if southeast Queensland’s three day lockdown doesn’t go to plan, the region could be on track for “sustained community transmission” on par with Sydney.

Director of Infectious Diseases at Mater Health, Paul Griffin, said the Greater Brisbane cluster had “the hallmarks of being something significant”.

Nine new cases of Covid-19 were announced on Sunday, linked to a 17-year-old Indooroopilly State High School student and her tutor.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said that southeast Queenslanders should expect more cases on Monday, and warned lockdown being lifted on Tuesday afternoon was entirely dependent on the number of people out in the community while infectious.

Health authorities are scrambling to find how the virus, which has been genomically linked to a returned traveller who was treated on the Sunshine Coast in July, has spread through the community.

As a result, millions of southeast Queenslanders were plunged into a three-day lockdown on Saturday afternoon, but there is a chance it could be extended, as Dr Griffin warned there could be “a whole other cluster out there”.

“We have had a number of other cases come into Queensland and we have seen little to no transmission from those. This one is very different,” he told Weekend Today.

“There’s a lot of concerning elements about this, including where these people have been, how many exposure sites there are, how many people are already infected as a result.”

Ms D’Ath told ABC Radio on Monday that as was the case in New South Wales, it was the number of people infectious in the community that was the real concern.

“If everybody is in quarantine when they become infectious, there is no risk,” she said.

“But all nine cases we announced yesterday had been in the community while infectious. We want to see that number come down.”

Thousands of students, staff and family members across five major Brisbane schools are in lockdown, and dozens of exposure sites including the University of Queensland and Westfield Indooroopilly, have been listed.

Dr Griffin said the snap lockdown announcement was the right approach, warning delayed action could result in an outbreak on scale with the one currently ravaging Sydney.

“Because we’ve already seen so much transmission from this one, obviously it has the makings of a very significant event,” Dr Griffin said.

“I think we’re fortunate that we already had a mask mandate, so that’s going to reduce the number of cases at least by a proportion.

“Hopefully the lockdown allows contact tracers to get on top of this.

“Certainly if (lockdown) doesn’t all go according to plan, we certainly could have sustained community transmission arising from this event.”

Queensland health authorities are expected to provide further updates later on Monday.



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