Queensland announced 20 new Covid cases on Friday, including five people with the Omicron variant, as the premier reintroduced a mask mandate and warned case numbers will rise further in the state.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the new cases were detected in Brisbane north and south, West Moreton, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Cairns.
‘There are new cases in Cairns today,’ Ms D’Ath said.
‘There are thousands and thousands of people moving around this state seeing loved ones and we know this virus could pop up anywhere in Queensland at any time in coming days and months.’
Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard said the new cases comprised seven infections acquired interstate, four from overseas, three from contacts in Queensland, four unlinked to other cases, and two under investigation.
Two of the new Omicron cases – one in Brisbane and one on the Gold Coast – are linked to the growing Newcastle cluster, Dr Gerrard said.
‘These numbers will continue to increase and that is expected,’ he said.
‘Both individuals were vaccinated and neither had symptoms, they were screened because they were contacts [of other cases].
Dr Gerrard said residents of the Holland Park aged care facility, where a visitor had tested positive, had screened negative for Covid so far.
Earlier, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk reintroduced a mask mandate in the state as new Covid cases grow after border restrictions were eased.
‘It’s time to bring out these,’ she announced at a press conference on Friday, holding up a mask.
Masks will be required again in retail settings, hospitals, aged care, public transport, rideshare and airports from 1am tomorrow.
‘I’m asking Queenslanders once again, it’s a small price to pay for your freedoms,’ Ms Palaszczuk said.
‘We’re doing this to slow the spread of the virus… we know Christmas is the busiest time of the year for people shopping and getting ready.
‘We don’t want to see a massive escalation [in cases] over Christmas and New Year.’
The move comes as the state announced 20 news Covid cases on Friday, following on from 22 announced yesterday. Five of the cases were confirmed as having the Omicron variant, after three were detected yesterday.
‘We’re doing this to slow the spread of the virus… we know Christmas is the busiest time of the year for people shopping and getting ready,’ Ms Palaszczuk said as she reintroduced a mask mandate for some indoor settings in the state
Masks will not be required in outdoor settings or in workplaces, the Premier said.
Ms Palaszczuk the new mandate will likely remain in place until the state reached 90 per cent of the eligible population with two doses of a Covid vaccine.
‘We’re looking good to reach 90 per cent single dose over Christmas, and double dose some time in January,’ she said.
The premier said the dramatic escalation in cases in NSW and the fact more than 60,000 border passes to enter Queensland had been received from people in interstate hotspots made the reintroduction of masks necessary.
Mask will be required again in retail settings, hospitals, aged care, public transport, rideshare and airports from 1am tomorrow. Pictured: People cross a Brisbane street while wearing masks
NSW Covid case numbers jumped again to 2,213 infections on Friday, with one death, while Victoria recorded 1,510 cases and eight fatalities.
Visitors from both states and the ACT were welcomed back to Queensland by road and air last Monday, provided they were fully vaccinated, possessed a valid border pass and had proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arriving in Queensland.
More detail on the new mandate is expected to be provided by the Health Minister Yvette D’Ath and Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard at a mid-morning press conference.
Today’s case numbers are also expected to be announced.
More cases are expected to be announced as Queensland Health added new contact tracing sites to its website.
These include Virgin flight VA511 from Sydney to the Gold Coast on December 15 between 8am-9.40am. All passengers, excluding Rows 28-32, are considered casual contacts and are asked to quarantine and get tested.
Those in rows 28-32 are considered close contacts.
Passengers sitting in rows 23-27 of Qantas flight QF756 from Brisbane to Townsville on Tuesday, December 14 between 3.32pm – 5.19pm are also considered close contacts of a positive case and must quarantine even after receiving a negative PCR test.
Yesterday, Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath urged Queenslanders to start wearing masks again in indoor settings after a spike in Covid case numbers to 22.
That was the highest number of new cases in Queensland since August.
‘Please, get out your masks and start wearing them anywhere in Queensland just to protect yourself and reduce the risk of the spread of this virus,’ Ms D’Ath said.
‘It is now not about the number of cases, but the number of people who end up in the ICU.’
Visitors from both states and the ACT were welcomed back to Queensland by road and air last Monday, but the state is on edge about the new Covid cases the travellers will inevitably bring
Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard said he expected the state would see a surge in Covid cases in coming weeks now that border restrictions had eased.
‘It is likely we’ll see fatal cases, particularly among the unvaccinated,’ he warned.
Dr Gerrard foreshadowed the mask mandate yesterday when he said the move was being looked at ‘very closely’.
Ms Palaszczuk praised a number of Queensland regions for reaching the 90 per cent mark on first doses of a vaccine, including Mackay and Cairns, but once again noted the Gold Coast was trailing state averages at just over 80 per cent of residents with a first dose.
The return of the mask mandate comes on the day Queenslanders need to display their vaccination status in order to enter most venues in the state.
The mandate will be revised once 90 per cent of eligible Queenslanders are fully vaccinated.
Density limits on venues have been completely lifted, provided all patrons are fully vaccinated.
Some business owners have said they will openly flout the rules because they do not want to police the vaccination status of patrons.
Gold Coast businessman Glen day, who owns eateries such as Pancakes in Paradise in Surfers Paradise and The Aztec on Broadbeach, said he will allow unvaccinated people at his venues.
‘Money is not the important thing. It’s people’s rights that are important,’ he told the Today Show this week.