Queensland in ‘very criticial moment’ in COVID-19 pandemic, virologist warns

Queensland’s unfolding COVID-19 outbreak has put the state on a “knife’s edge”, with the next few days crucial in containing the virus.Key points:An expert says Queenslanders must minimise contact with others while the latest infections are investigatedQueensland is near the back of the pack nationally when it comes to vaccination ratesQueenslanders are being urged to get vaccinated before there is a big outbreakWith five new locally acquired cases recorded so far this week, and the risk of infection now spreading to the Gold Coast, health authorities have grown increasingly concerned.Lara Herrero, an infectious diseases expert at Griffith University, said Queensland was in a “very critical moment”.While the case numbers might seem relatively low, with Queensland only recording one new case yesterday, Dr Herrero said that did not mean the threat had passed.”At any time, we don’t know if there’s an infectious person in the community just by the nature of the time we get tested versus when symptoms start,” Dr Herrero said.”I’m certain that we are on a knife’s edge.”Compliance with COVID-19 restrictions remains high in Queensland and Dr Herrero has urged people not to become complacent.Check Queensland’s exposure site listHealth authorities add more venues to Queensland exposure site list after a new locally acquired case of COVID-19 was detected on the Gold Coast. Read more”Mask wearing is critical — irrespective of the environment — to preventing transmission,” Dr Herrero said.”That’s why we’ve seen the mask mandate extended here in south-east Queensland, and rightfully so.”She urged people to minimise their contact with other members of the community while the full extent of the outbreak was investigated.”Maybe execute those flexible working arrangements right now, just in this period where we’re very uncertain as to what’s happening,” she said.LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemicFears time running out to get vaccinated ahead of big outbreakHealth authorities are also concerned the window of opportunity for Queenslanders to be fully vaccinated before a big outbreak occurs is closing.Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said Queensland’s new clusters were an urgent reminder for people to go out and get vaccinated.”Remembering that it is at least five weeks from when you get your first [Pfizer] vaccine for you to be fully covered,” Ms D’Ath said.There is a three-week period between first and second shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and an additional two weeks after for the vaccine to be fully effective.Those who receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in Queensland have to wait 12 weeks between doses and then the additional two weeks to be fully covered.”We know that the virus is on our doorstep — we have been saying this for some time now — from New South Wales, the ACT and Victoria,” Ms D’Ath said.”Don’t wait — come out and get vaccinated because this is how we will protect our community and ensure we don’t have our ICUs overwhelmed by people who need ventilators.”Read more about the spread of COVID-19 in Australia:Some feel ‘lack of urgency’ to get vaccinatedIn Queensland, 45.6 per cent of those people eligible are fully vaccinated and 64.6 per cent have had one dose.Queensland is near the back of the pack nationally when it comes to vaccination rates.Behavioural psychologist Alex Haslam said some Queenslanders might not be prioritising getting the jab at the moment because the state was not suffering from a large outbreak.”I think you need a reason to do anything, whatever it is. To go to the shops, you need a reason,” Professor Haslam said.”Up until now, the sort of urgency of getting a vaccine hasn’t been there for everybody.”Read more about the vaccine rollout:States like Victoria and New South Wales saw their vaccine uptake rise when they experienced outbreaks.Professor Haslam said Queensland’s track record of successfully containing previous outbreaks could be playing a role in people’s lack of urgency in getting vaccinated.”It’s a bit like you’re just watching the radar, not much is happening, and you’ve maybe had a couple of tests, and nothing happened there,” he said.”There is that sense where you can just become a bit complacent.” Alex Haslam says Queensland’s success in containing previous outbreaks may have led to complacency about getting vaccinated.(ABC News: Chris Gillette.)He said Queenslanders had done the right thing so far, but he warned: “This is not the time to pat ourselves on the back and say job done.””If we just fall into casual ways or careless ways, there will be a price to pay and no-one in our community should be paying that price,” he said.Professor Haslam said apart from the issue of supply, some Queenslanders might not be rushing to get vaccinated because of previous government messaging.”Some of that early messaging, we said, ‘It’s not a race.’ And that was repeated many times. That was not helpful at all,” he said.Want more local news?We offer tailored front pages for local audiences in each state and territory. Find out how to opt in for more Queensland news.Read moreAlthough politicians’ messaging might have been confusing, Mr Haslam said it was also up to individuals to help crush the virus.”Leadership is a very distributed thing in a pandemic — everybody has a leadership role to play, whether it’s in your workplace or your community or in your family,” he said.”If there are people who need a bit of persuasion, need a bit of help, think what you can do for them.”He said an effective, concerted, community response was what was needed to reach vaccination targets and get Queensland on the road to normalcy.”Now is not the time to take your foot off the accelerator or apply the handbrake, it absolutely isn’t,” Professor Haslam said.Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 8 minutes 10 seconds8m Do we really need booster vaccines for COVID-19?What you need to know about coronavirus:Loading form…

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