Hundreds of healthcare workers from a major southeast Queensland hospital are in quarantine after four staff tested positive for COVID-19.
At Ipswich Hospital, 220 staff are in quarantine after a nurse tested positive. Health Minister Steven Miles said she was a contact of a known case.
The woman is the fourth healthcare worker infected from the hospital.
The hospital will remain open for emergency, but other appointments have been relocated or delayed until staff complete their quarantine.
Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the sacrifices of the state’s health workers was not going unnoticed.
“This is a difficult time for our healthcare workers and I’m extraordinarily grateful to every single one of them for the care they’re providing day-in, day-out at risk to themselves and their families,” she said.
The nurse was one of two people to test positive on Sunday, the other being a sister of a previously infected Staines Memorial College student.
Meanwhile on Russell Island, thousands of residents are being cautioned to monitor for symptoms after an infected woman visited the island, off Brisbane.
“It is really important for the next week at least that anyone on Russell Island who develops any symptoms at all come forward and get tested,” Dr Young said.
It comes as 50 Queensland paramedics will be trained to set up pop-up fever clinics and quickly test following a community outbreak of COVID-19.
Mr Miles said paramedics would assist with testing to make it “more convenient” for the public.
“We’ve learned throughout this metropolitan outbreak that we need a greater and more flexible ability to stand up more fever clinics quickly and do more testing quickly,” Mr Miles said.
The state’s pharmacy union has called on the Queensland Government to scrap their plans to set up COVID-19 testing in community pharmacies, over fears they would turn into “COVID petri dishes”.
Queensland Director of Professional Pharmacists Australia Adam Kerslake said the union and medical bodies had been trying to convince the state government to change its mind “for weeks” but the pleas had fallen on deaf ears.
“The Government’s proposal is dangerous for pharmacists and dangerous for the community,” Mr Kerslake said.
“It could turn pharmacies into COVID petri dishes and result in the pandemic sweeping across the community.
“Our advice to the community is that if this testing rolls out, stay away from pharmacies until the Government changes its – it’s not safe.
“If this isn’t managed correctly, pharmacies will turn into COVID hot spots, spreading infection like wildfire across the state.”
A nurse at the Ipswich hospital, west of Brisbane, is one of two new coronavirus cases in Queensland, with more than 220 staff going into quarantine.
Health Minister Steven Miles said the nurse had contact with a known case.
The facility hospital will be open for emergency cases, but other appointments would be relocatedor delayed while the staff quarantine.
Contact tracing is underway on the nurse’s movements to see if any further alerts are needed.
Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said even though another nurse has contracted coronavirus, she was not concerned about levels of protective equipment or training.
“This is just such a difficult virus, it really is quite infectious,” she said.
“We know from all the cases that have happened in Melbourne, there’s been large numbers of healthcare workers.
“This is a difficult time for our healthcare workers and I’m extraordinarily grateful to every single one of them for the care they’re providing day-in, day-out at risk to themselves and their families.”
The other new case in the state overnight is a sister, in her 20s, of an infected student at Staines College at Redbank Plains, also in Ipswich.
There are now 25 active cases in Queensland, with about 6,000 people tested in the past 24 hours.
On Russell Island, off Brisbane, 152 of the 5,000 residents were tested after a woman returned a positive result yesterday.
Dr Jeanette Young said the woman had been wearing a mask in the community and hoped the virus will not spread.
“I’m sure that will stand that community in good stead.”
“It is really important for the next week at least that anyone on Russell Island who develops any symptoms at all come forward and get tested.”
Paramedics to help with testing
The Queensland Ambulance Service will train 50 paramedics who will be able to set up pop-up fever clinics and quickly test following a community outbreak.
Mr Miles said paramedics would assist with coronavirus testing to make it more convenient for the public.
“We’ve learned throughout this metropolitan outbreak that we need a greater and more flexible ability to stand up more fever clinics quickly and do more testing quickly,” Mr Miles said.
Dr Young said Queensland was doing all it could to help NSW and Victoria limit its community transmission and help Australia open by Christmas.
“I am confident that with all that work we should, I hope, be able to open our borders for Christmas,” she said.
RCMP in British Columbia say four Americans have been fined $500 each for violating emergency orders under the Quarantine Act.
Spokeswoman Dawn Roberts says a vehicle with Alaska licence plates sparked suspicion in the Vancouver area late last month.
She says police found the vehicle and determined the driver and three passengers were in breach of restrictions in place for Americans travelling to and from Alaska through Canada.
Such travellers are allowed a reasonable length of time to take the most direct route to their destination, and receive a tag for their rear-view mirror that indicates the date they must leave the country.
Roberts says it appears the four Alaskans weren’t on the most direct path to Washington state, and were staying in B.C. outside the prescribed timeline.
The four travellers were escorted to the Peace Arch border crossing and Roberts says there were no indications they posed a public health risk.
Meralco crews work round-the-clock to ensure safe, adequate, and reliable supply of electricity to the Solaire-PAGCOR Mega Quarantine Facility. The 525-bed center located in Paranaque City, is the biggest quarantine facility in Metro Manila and is one of the additional COVID-19 facilities to serve Metro Manila, Bulacan, and the Calabarzon Region. The said energization project includes the installation of new metering facilities, four (4) new concrete poles, three (3) spans of covered conductor, and three (3) 333KVA single-phase distribution transformers. Powering quarantine and treatment facilities is one of Meralco’s priority projects this year, as the company continues its relentless support to the government and to the private sector in the fight against COVID-19.
Travellers from Portugal arriving in Scotland must now spend a fortnight in isolation – but there are still political divisions over the decision.
The rules cameinto force from 4am on Saturday, 24 hours after Wales introduced the same quarantine period for those arriving from the country. However, they do not apply to England and Northern Ireland.
Portugal had only been removed from the UK quarantine list two weeks ago but there had been suggestions the Department for Transport would opt to reimpose it after coronavirus cases rose above 20 cases per 100,000 people – the threshold used for past travel decisions.
Fresh restrictions have already been reintroduced for the popular tourist destination by the Welsh government but England and Northern Ireland opted not to collapse the so-called travel corridor with Portugal.
Scotland on Thursday reintroduced quarantine for those returning from Greece and while Wales did the same for six Greek islands, including Crete and Zante, but England and Northern Ireland resisted.
Despite the differences, Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted that “overwhelmingly the UK is proceeding as one”.
But earlier in the day, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there was now “confusion” over differing quarantine rules across the union and accused Scotland of having “jumped the gun” on imposing restrictions on Greece.
A Scottish government spokesman hit back saying there had been a “worrying number of people in Scotland who tested positive for COVID-19 and who had returned from Greece”.
He added: “In the case of Portugal, it was unfortunate that the UK government announced their decision yesterday before ministers from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland met and before considering the latest Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) data.
“This indicated a significant rise in both the prevalence of the virus in Portugal and in test positivity.”
Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said Wales was acting “in line with” the risk assessments from the JBC in imposing a 14-day quarantine on arrivals from the six Greek islands and Portugal.
Holidaymakers in Portugal reacted with confusion when the rules were announced, with many already having booked earlier flights home.
Derek, who was visiting Almancil in Portugal, told Sky News that his son and wife did not join him because they feared quarantine being imposed and his brother had rushed home to go back to work and help his son head to university.
He claimed tourists were being left “confused” and that “it’s very unfair because people seem to be put on short notice, not only is it very expensive but they don’t know if they’re coming or going”.
On Wednesday, the ABC’s medical expert Norman Swan called out what he saw as a “clear double standard” with Australia’s approach to dealing with people who are infected with coronavirus.
That is, while Australians coming back from overseas must spend two weeks in mandatory hotel quarantine, even if it turns out they don’t have coronavirus, people who test positive in Australia are told to self-isolate at home.
Dr Swan argued that making people isolate at special facilities could be a way to get low case numbers, like those being experienced currently in New South Wales and Queensland, down to “almost zero”.
Dr Swan described such a location as a “positive facility” where people are taken for 14 days.
But after reading the responses from Coronacast listeners who had feverishly written in, Dr Swan said the idea was “probably dead”.
Here is some of what those readers had to say.
Some people do support the idea
“I absolutely agree that people who test positive should be quarantined in special COVID-positive facilities. At the very least it should be an option for people to choose voluntarily.
“I live in a small house with five housemates and we all accept that if one of use is infected, there is little hope for the rest of us :(“
“I just heard you talking about removing COVID-19 positive people into a COVID-positive facility. I think this and mask wearing makes so much sense.
“The majority of our population in Melbourne have not got this and won’t ever be exposed to this virus, but our lives are put on hold. More accurately targeting the problem is a way better idea than lockdown of a whole city or state.
“More ideas like this need to be thought of by the government.”
“I am a mum of two, and will be willing to go to the allocated centre to be with my kids if the government would ever go down the path of quarantining the tested positive people in a designated location.”
“While we are waiting for a vaccine (if it ever comes) we should have isolated coronavirus facilities to keep the virus out of hospital and other medical facilities. WA had the right idea with Rottnest Island. We need long-term solutions NOW!”
“Great idea to quarantine positive patients. This was what Wuhan did in February and onwards apart from lockdown.”
“WA showed the way on sensible isolation facilities when they sent people to Rottnest Island – good facilities, pleasant location, accessible to medical facilities, but very hard to abscond.
“Queensland could probably do the same at Hamilton Island. SA could set up a facility on Kangaroo Island if a suitable resort survived the bushfires. Both NSW and VIC will probably need multiple facilities. In Sydney, the old quarantine station is still suitable.”
However, others are VERY against it
“The idea of removing people from their homes who test positive is outrageous. Making it optional, perhaps, but enforcing it is simply going to stop people going to get tested.”
“Just reading Coronacast’s suggestion of quarantine for Covid patients makes me sick with dread. I’d want to recover in my own home, with my books and hobbies and office
“I’d find it traumatic to be dragged off even to five-star luxury, caged with strangers, unable to work, bored out of my skull, with no-one to care for my plants. Norman, have you considered the mental health impact of forcing people from their homes? Or the huge disincentive it would be for testing? Where’s the risk if you live alone?”
Another listener also suggested it should be different for people who live alone
“I live on my own. I would pose no risk to others by self-isolating at home. If this idea happens, there must be an exemption for people who live alone or have a separate granny flat on their or a friend’s property.
“With the ability to get food deliveries and mental health this is a no brainer. Secondly, I disagree with the proposal. Why not have the whole house isolate? Or give people the option?”
But the thing that really changed Dr Swan’s mind? Listeners pointing out the effect on testing
“Norman, with the greatest respect, you are kidding yourself if you think mandatory isolation for positive cases will work. Being forcibly removed from your home and family is a massive disincentive to getting tested. A significant number of people would avoid testing, myself included.
“There would be a perverse outcome that might be worse than the current situation.”
“I almost always agree with what you say, Norman, but I disagree about forced quarantine for positive cases. I think that would be a serious disincentive to testing and we could end up with a worse public health disaster on our hands.
“Also, putting people in unfamiliar surroundings means that they can’t eat their normal food or sleep as soundly. Wouldn’t this increase their chances of complications from COVID?”
“Don’t you think quarantining local COVID-positive cases in special accommodation might deter people from coming forward for testing?”
“The idea of forcibly taking people who test positive to COVID to a quarantine location sounds good, but wouldn’t this have the adverse reaction of reducing the testing rate of symptomatic people?
“Surely we’d rather know that someone is positive and at home rather than disincentivising getting a test and having the virus potentially spread further?”
“I liked the idea on today’s Coronacast about placing positive cases into quarantine, but I fear that it would deter people from coming forward for testing. Nobody wants to be unwell and away from loved ones and in an unfamiliar environment.”
“I think the prospect of mandatory quarantine in a facility would reduce the likelihood of people coming forward to get tested. I have small children and would not be comfortable being away from them for two weeks.
“I think on paper it’s a good idea, but in practice it’s incredibly messy and it would be hard to get the public on board.”
“Please please please don’t even mention the concept of removing people testing positive from their homes for isolation.
“We are already teetering on the edge of a revolt, and it’s already hard enough to get people to go and get tested when they have symptoms. If they think the penalty for being positive is two weeks in jail, they will hide their symptoms even from their family and make everything much worse. In order to keep hiding, they will have to go to work, etc.”
As for Dr Swan’s final word on the subject…
This morning on Coronacast, he said the idea was “probably dead, sadly”, given that Coronacasters are a “typical cross-section of the Australian population”.
He said he was “overwhelmed” by the view of people both for and against the idea that it would be bad for testing rates.
So, it looks like that’s that.
If you’ve got a comment or question of your own, the form for sending them to us is below.
The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has defended the UK Government’s decision to maintain England’s travel corridors with Portugal and Greece, despite Scotland and Wales reintroducing travel restrictions.
This week the English, Welsh and Scottish quarantine policies have split. Scotland has imposed a quarantine on Greece, while Wales has placed a number of Greek islands on its ‘red list’. England, however, retains its travel corridor with the country.
The situation intensified yesterday, when Scotland and Wales moved to impose a quarantine on mainland Portugal, shortly after Grant Shapps announced Portugal would keep its travel corridor with England.
Mr Shapps admitted that the difference in quarantine policies is “confusing”, as Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye spoke out to denounce the Government U-turns and disparate policies as a “quarantine roulette”.
Acknowledging that disparities in the UK’s quarantine policies are baffling holidaymakers, Mr Shapps also stressed there was little he could do for desperate Welsh and Scottish travellers, who have been left with the challenge of getting home before the quarantine rules come into force.
“You are quite accustomed to seeing, for example, Scotland do one thing and say you can meet with so many people and Wales do another and so on and so forth,” he told Sky News.
“The travel corridors are similar to that and I do realise that it creates confusion for people not to have a single rule but we do have this devolved approach throughout the UK.
“I can only be responsible for the English part of that.”
Critics have spoken out against the quarantine policy debacle. Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy PC Agency, said: “The quarantine policy is in tatters and dividing the United Kingdom.
“Consumers are totally confused by the different approaches and it’s impossible to understand the Government’s own criteria any more, on when to add or remove a country.”
Wales felt quarantine was only option after ‘tide of infections’ from Greek islands – minister
Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething has discussed the quarantine restrictions imposed on travellers returning from Portugal, Gibraltar, French Polynesia and six Greek islands from Friday.
He told the BBC’s Today programme: “I have a particular issue that just underpins everything – adds to that (Joint Biosecurity Centre) advice here in Wales – was flights from Zante earlier in the week, when I introduced advice to people from Zante and testing on the first two days and then testing again a week later.
“That was because in the week before we had over 30 cases from four different flights, two of which had landed in England.
“On that flight which landed in Cardiff on Tuesday, there are over 20 direct cases – that’s more than 10 per cent of that flight.
“Seeing a rising tide of infections coming in from that list of islands, having that direct experience in Wales and very clear advice about the higher risk to UK public health from the JBC, I did not feel that there was any course of action other than taking some form of action.
“It’s not for me to explain why others haven’t done that, but I’m very clear that we’re following that advice and keeping Wales safe.”
Asked about the different approach taken by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in Westminster, he said: “I’m very content this is the right thing to do, it’s in line with the risk assessments we received from both the JBC and Public Health England, but also the reason why I’ve excluded the Azores and Madeira… is they do have a different rating but they also have testing on entry, so they’re able to understand before people get there.”
People arriving in Wales from Portugal, French Polynesia and six Greek islands must now self-isolate for 14 days.
Wales’ new coronavirus quarantine rules kicked in at 04:00 BST on Friday.
Arrivals to Scotland from Portugal and French Polynesia will have to self-isolate from 04:00 on Saturday.
With Portugal, Greece and French Polynesia still on England and Northern Ireland’s lists of travel corridors, the difference between UK nations has been criticised as confusing.
And some holidaymakers from England say they have spent money to avoid quarantine that, for now, will not be in place.
In Portugal, the seven-day infection rate has increased from 15.3 to 23 per 100,000 people. This is above the threshold of 20 which is when the UK government generally considers triggering quarantine conditions.
The Department for Transport said decisions around adding or removing countries from England’s quarantine list “take into account a range of factors” – including how many people are being tested.
“Portugal has drastically increased its testing capacity, as well as taking measures to control the spread of the virus,” said a spokesperson, adding the situation was being monitored closely.
The latest quarantine rules introduced in Wales also apply to travellers from Gibraltar. The six Greek islands the rules apply to are Crete, Mykonos, Zakynthos (or Zante), Lesvos, Paros and Antiparos.
“This week’s data shows an increase in test positivity and cases per 100,000 in Portugal,” said Scottish justice minister Humza Yousaf.
Greece’s rate overall is below the “20 cases per 100,000” threshold, at 13.8 in the seven days to 2 September, down from 14.9 a week earlier.
Announcing that there were no additions or removals to England’s quarantine exemption list, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Thursday: “We continue to keep the travel corridor list under constant review and won’t hesitate to remove countries if needed.”
“Nonetheless, holidaymakers are reminded – 14-day quarantine countries can and do change at very short notice.”
Northern Ireland’s department of health also confirmed that it would not make any further changes at present.
The variety of rules across the four UK nations have drawn criticism from industry experts and holidaymakers.
“The quarantine policy is in tatters,” said Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy firm The PC Agency.
“Consumers are totally confused by the different approaches and it’s impossible to understand the government’s own criteria any more on when to add or remove a country.”
He called for a change in strategy as the weekly announcements have caused “anxiety and financial pain” for consumers and travel firms.
Expensive new flights
In a normal year, more than two million Britons visit Portugal. Most head to the Algarve in the south, drawn by sunny Atlantic beaches, picturesque fishing villages and golf courses.
Kelly, from Birmingham, and her family changed their flights home from the Algarve from Saturday to Friday at a cost of £900 to avoid potential quarantine because she did not want her children to miss out on two weeks of school.
The 45-year-old said the situation was “absolutely disgusting”.
“It’s cost us a lot more money and it’s money we didn’t need to spend now. We’ve lost an extra night in our villa – we won’t get that back – we’ve got a hire car, so we’re taking that back a day early.”
A messy situation just got… messier
One aviation boss described travelling abroad right now as “quarantine roulette” because the list of destinations which are affected keeps changing.
But the governments in Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff are now clearly at odds over which countries pose a clear risk.
Portugal’s infection rate is above the UK government’s benchmark of 20 cases of the virus for every 100,000 people.
But the UK government has surprised us all and not added Portugal to the list for England. It’s not clear why.
Greece is even more complicated as the Welsh government is opting for a policy where only people arriving from certain Greek islands have to self-isolate while Scotland has introduced a quarantine for arrivals from across Greece.
For months the travel industry has been lobbying the UK government for an approach where they consider particular regions in a country, but ministers in London are not keen on the idea.
The quarantine was already hard or impossible to police.
But discrepancies between different UK nations makes it even harder as someone could, theoretically, fly into Newcastle from Greece and drive into Scotland. That person should self-isolate for 14 days, but no-one will be checking.
Damian Martin had switched his holiday destination from Spain to Lagos, Portugal, in a bid to avoid having to quarantine. But as he will not be able to travel home to Swansea early, he will have to self-isolate when he returns.
“I will be able to self-isolate, I think, but I work for a supermarket so will have to check in with them,” he said.
He added: “I’m supposed to be here eight nights. I might as well try to enjoy it.”
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “Days of speculation around this announcement meant many people rushed to pay extortionate prices for flights back to England to avoid having to quarantine on their return – only to now find out there was no need.
“The government knows this and yet it continues to offer no clarity around how these decisions are made.”
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