Queensland hospitals are set for a “major emergency” with 10,332 new COVID-19 cases recorded in a day and almost one-in-three people testing positive.
The state’s largest-ever daily leap in cases was recorded on Thursday after 34,832 tests, taking the number of active cases to 42,250.
Queensland also recorded its eighth fatality after the coroner confirmed the virus was the cause of death for a man in his 80s who died on December 27.
Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said 12 patients are in intensive care, including two on ventilators, while 284 people are in hospital.
“The sheer number of patients that are going to get infected in Queensland over the next few weeks means that even a small proportion of this very, very large number will end up in hospital,” Dr Gerrard told reporters on Thursday.
“To all of my colleagues: we were going to be stepping up to a very major emergency in the coming two to three weeks.”
“When that emergency drags on for a long time that is much more draining to deal with, so there’s an upside and a downside to this.”
Most patients won’t need intensive care, he said, but thousands will require ward-level treatment and some are likely to be put on oxygen.
Doctors, nurses and health staff will also have to be redeployed from other areas like elective surgery to treat patients.
Dr Gerrard said the peak would hopefully be shorter because most cases were the Omicron variant rather than Delta.
Young, fit and healthy people with mild symptoms have been urged not to go to hospital, but to isolate and monitor themselves.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said people should also avoid calling for ambulances unless they absolutely need them.
“Every single day is so critical,” she said.
“This is in your hands. You can help us take the pressure off our ambulance system, to make sure that those ambulances are getting to those people who most need them as quickly as possible.”
With school students set to return when the peak hits, authorities are also urging parents to get their children vaccinated.
Dr Gerrard said it was possible that thousands of children would be infected, but their symptoms would probably be milder.
“If I were a parent … I’d be getting my child vaccinated, but I wouldn’t be unduly concerned about it,” he said.
Ms D’Ath also welcomed a national cabinet decision to no longer require PCR tests to validate positive rapid antigen tests.
She said it would take some pressure off PCR testing clinics, which have been swamped in recent days.
Some private testing hubs are short of staff who either have COVID-19 or are isolating because they’re close contacts.
A positive rate of almost 30 per cent has also made batch testing samples futile so they must be individually analysed, further delaying the process.
“The only people coming forward to get tested right now at our clinics should be people who have symptoms who have not been able to get access to a rapid antigen test,” Ms D’Ath said.
The state has ordered 18 million rapid antigen tests, but she said only 150,000 will be delivered in the near future.
Available kits are being given to the most vulnerable people facing hours of queueing at testing clinics in the state’s southeast.
“We’re back to where we were in February-March last year when we were talking about vaccine arrivals,” Ms D’Ath said.
The latest figures show 87.26 per cent of eligible Queenslanders over the age of 16 have had two vaccine doses, while 90.93 per cent have had one.