Covid surges in the region

A mask mandate is still in place across the state.

By Dominique Tassell

In almost three weeks, Covid-19 cases in the Southern Downs region have risen to over 400.

Cases were confirmed in the region prior to Christmas, with 16 cases documented in the region on 27 December.

Currently, there are 420 cases in the community. The state announced 14,914 new cases today.

With over 100,000 cases in the state, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath stated on Tuesday 11 January that they expected a large number of cases to be going unreported.

“We do expect that is an under-reporting,” she said.

“There are many other people in the community who are showing symptoms who have not either registered their tests or have come forward for PCR tests at this stage.”

Over the weekend, the region’s numbers increased steadily, however, case numbers are expected to be higher across the state due to Rapid Antigen Test shortages, PCR testing wait times, and four testing centres being down earlier in the week.

A Darling Downs Health (DDH) spokesperson stated that the symptoms for Covid-19 regardless of variant remain the same – fever, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, vomiting or nausea, loss of smell and/or taste, cough, shortness of breath, headache and diarrhoea.

For information on vaccination clinics on the Southern Downs, locals can visit to see where they are able to get their vaccines.

The DDH spokesperson stated that locals can use a rapid antigen test (RAT) to check if they are likely to have Covid-19.

Rapid antigen tests can be completed by you at home and should give a result within 15-30 minutes.

They stated that rapid antigen test kits are available, if there is enough supply, at Queensland testing clinics for people who are eligible for a free RAT kit.

They highlighted that RAT kids can be purchased in retail shops and chemists, however we are experiencing a shortage in supply due to the sudden high demand for them.

They are expected to become more readily available in the next few weeks.

The DDH spokesperson stated that if your RAT returns a positive result, it is likely you have Covid-19. You do not need a PCR test to confirm a positive RAT result.

If your RAT returns a negative result, it is likely you do not have Covid-19 but you should continue to monitor your health for any Covid-19 symptoms.

If the result is inconclusive, repeat the test on a new kit.

Ms D’Ath announced earlier this month that people can call 134 268 or visit the Queensland Health website to catalogue positive rapid test results.

When asked why daily cases in the region have been low on certain days when they have been otherwise consistently higher, the DDH representative stated that “the statistics on positive cases may go up and down across the state – there is no one reason for this”.

“We do know that the best way to protect yourself against Covid-19 is to maintain hand hygiene, social distancing, wearing a mask, and importantly, getting vaccinated.”

From 4 January, the wait time between second doses and booster shots was shortened to four months.

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard has previously stated that he credits our low hospitalisation rates to the vaccination for preventing serious symptoms.

However, on Tuesday 11 January he stated that the number of people in Queensland hospitals being treated for Covid-19 is “escalating fairly rapidly” and the number will grow to be “quite significant” in coming weeks.

It was previously speculated that the high numbers were a result of a hot spot on the Gold Coast, where vaccine levels remain low.

While hospitalisations have increased, the number of people requiring ventilators and in the ICU has remained low.

Dr Gerrard said earlier this week that these numbers show the vaccine was having an impact in preventing people from getting seriously ill.

“To put that in context, I was in Tokyo at the beginning of the pandemic dealing with the Diamond Princess outbreak, where we had 700 people infected with Covid-19, of which over 30 were on ventilators and in intensive care units,” he said.

“Now in Queensland, we have well over 100,000 people that are infected, we have documented over 100,000 infections through testing, and we have just 27 people in intensive care units in Queensland at the moment.

“The lesson is the vaccines are working, they are specifically working on preventing people from getting critically ill and reducing hospital admissions.”

Children aged between five and 11 can now get vaccinated, with more than 6,500 children receiving a vaccine dose at state-run clinics on Monday 10 January

Reportedly about 38,404 children are in the booking system.

“Of course, we know that parents are also wanting to go to pharmacies and GPs and we do hope that the vaccine is supplied from the Commonwealth as quickly as possible so that we can get all of these sites up and running and offering vaccinations,” Ms D’Ath said.

“I understand pharmacies and GPs are not taking bookings at the moment because they want to see those vaccines in their hands.

“That’s completely understandable, but we need the Commonwealth to get these vaccines as quickly as possible.”

A mask mandate is currently in place across the state.

The mandate includes shops, hospitals, aged care, public transport, rideshares, airports, cinemas, theatres, and hospitality staff.

Ms D’Ath has previously emphasised that it is more important than ever to get vaccinated.

“It’s about reducing the risk of those cases coming to your regional, remote towns,” Ms D’Ath said.

Ms D’Ath said individuals are not required to carry masks at all times but are strongly encouraged to do so.

“Mask wearing takes very little effort, but is a highly effective tool in our fight against Covid-19,” Ms D’Ath said.