Queensland’s health minister has warned that some elective surgeries may have to be canceled as the latest COVID-19 wave puts a major strain on the health system.
Yvette D’Ath said the number of healthcare workers affected by COVID has more than doubled in the past week and a half.
“As of yesterday, we now have 3,305 health workers and Queensland Ambulance Service personnel who are in isolation and quarantining,” the minister said.
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“It’s putting a strain on our health system.”
Ms D’Eth said a shortage of health workers meant some hospitals could be forced to postpone elective surgeries in the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Cairns and Darling Downs. However, a statewide halt was not being planned.
In the last 24 hours, 10,722 new cases have been reported.
There are 376 people with COVID-19 in a public hospital and 13 in intensive care.
The chief health officer, Dr John Gerrard, said this second wave was being driven by the BA2 sub-version, which is “particularly affecting children”.
“This is probably due to the low vaccination rate in children and the relative lack of exposure to children during that first omicron wave,” he said.
“On a more positive note, our data is suggesting that we are approaching the peak of transmission of this current wave,” he said.
However, he added that hospitalizations and the impact on workers will continue to increase for the next week or two before easing.
“The summit, as we have said many times, is not the end,” he said.
Dr Gerrard also confirmed that the rules have now been relaxed for people who have contracted the virus.
Those who have recovered will not need to be tested for 12 weeks and will not be considered close contacts during that time.
“We will be actively reviewing some of the public health measures that are expected in our hospitalizations in the coming weeks,” he said.
“At this stage we still don’t know what will happen, we don’t know if we will have more waves.”
Dr Gerrard said he would like to see a drop in the number of hospitalizations before any remaining measures are reviewed.
However, the future of the vaccination mandate that places non-vaccinated patrons of our hospitality sites and other facilities is still under review.
“We have decided that, given that we have a second wave, we will suspend all measures until it is clear that this second wave is occurring,” he said.
“We want to see a drop in the number of hospitalizations before we look at any of these measures.
“Hopefully we start to see those declines in the next few weeks.
“What we actually do and what we change then, we’ll determine then.”
It is best to take a cautious approach to changing the restrictions, he said.
“It will be very difficult to remove the restrictions and put them back,” he said.
“So that’s why if we take them away we need to make sure that’s what we want to do.”