According to the Courier-Mail, over 5,400 people, or around one in every one thousand people in Queensland are in active quarantine, mostly because they’re close contacts of COVID cases (see the charts below with data for the Queensland Hospital and Health Service regions). I expect the number in active quarantine will increase substantially over the next few weeks, given our rapidly rising COVID case numbers. We will no doubt start to see short-staffed businesses as quarantined people are unable to turn up to work. Note the figures for Metro North in the charts below are most likely abnormally high due to the region including Brisbane CBD and Spring Hill, where a lot of quarantine hotels are located.
Source: Qld Health data published by the Courier-Mail.
It didn’t take long for Queensland to record triple-digit COVID cases as we did today with 186 new cases, and we’ll probably be looking at daily cases of 1,000+ in a week or so, I guess. So far the Queensland Government appears to be keeping calm, but there’s much suspicion in the community that the Government will go further than re-imposing a mask mandate – i.e. possibly even a lockdown to “flatten the curve” – not long after Christmas. Let’s hope it remains calm, because tourism and hospitality businesses are counting on a strong Summer season. Anecdotal reports are that Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast accommodation bookings are very strong, partly because they benefit from the drive-in market from Brisbane, but the difficulties in traveling interstate (i.e. the PCR test requirement which hopefully will be relaxed) mean that North Queensland destinations may not experience as strong a season as they’d like.
Source: Qld Health data published by the Courier-Mail. Incidence rates were calculated by adjusting HHS population estimates for 2019 to reflect Qld Treasury’s current population estimate boosted by 100k to account for additional people from interstate in the lead up to Christmas.
The big unknown, with huge implications for policy, is how our public hospital system, which was already feeling the strain before the border re-opened, will cope with sharply rising cases which will surely bring sharply rising hospitalisations, even though at a lower number than if we didn’t have the vaccine coverage we do. I should note that Queensland’s vaccination coverage could be a bit higher, as at 85% double-vaxxed it’s third lowest among the states and territories, with Queensland only beating NT and the remote hermit kingdom of WA (see COVID-19 vaccine rollout update – 21 December 2021). Could we have done better if our former CHO, now Governor, hadn’t raised doubts about the safety of AstraZeneca earlier this year? Hard to say. But once we’re out of this pandemic, we need to examine government policy advice and decision making during the pandemic with a highly critical eye. Too many people have suffered from cruel and inconsistent government policies and those in power should be held accountable.
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