After almost two years of border restrictions and public health measures intended to lock COVID-19 out of Queensland, surging daily case numbers leave no doubt that the virus has won.
With 11,174 new COVID-19 cases and the deaths of two men in their 30s reported on Saturday, Queensland has now taken the emergency measure of suspending non-urgent elective surgeries for the next two months.
Some public hospitals had already cut surgeries but the measure announced on Saturday would ensure no category-three and only some category-two surgeries can occur between now and March.
“We will review this until the end of January, when we will assess where we are in the surge and where we expect the peak to occur,” Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said on Saturday.
Out-patient appointments will also move to telehealth or be delayed.
The changes are part of plans, begun months ago, where the state moves through tiered stages, the minister said.
“It’s not just about bed capacity – it’s about health workers and their availability,” she said, saying 3500 were in isolation.
The latest cases represent a slight rise on Friday’s numbers and take active cases in the state to just shy of 63,000. Some 349 people are in hospital, with three of the 17 in intensive care units on ventilators.
The coroner has confirmed two more deaths, both men in their 30s who developed myocarditis.
One man was unvaccinated and died unexpectedly in his home on Wednesday, Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said. The other died about 10 days ago.
“Myocarditis … viral infection of the heart, can be very difficult for both the patient and doctors to recognise before it causes sudden death,” Dr Gerrard said.
“Symptoms can include pain behind the chest, that’s why we recommend people with significant chest pain to seek advice if they have COVID-19.
“It is exceedingly rare but it has been reported in both Australia and overseas.”
The deaths are the second and third in the current wave, taking the state’s pandemic death toll to 10.
The first-dose vaccination rate for people 16 and over is 91.0 per cent, with 87.46 per cent double-dosed.
Meanwhile, the Queensland government’s decision to delay primary school students’ return if the outbreak is still peaking has been applauded by a teachers’ union.
Primary school children, many of whom won’t have had enough time to be fully vaccinated, are due to return to class on January 24. But Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that will be postponed by two to three weeks if infections are still escalating.
“The Queensland premier’s statements … on the possible delay of primary schools returning is most welcome at this uncertain time and we look forward to the full details of the plan being provided in the coming days,” said Terry Burke of Independent Education Union Queensland and Northern Territory.
“IEU-QNT members also await the full details of the national plan for the return of schools as announced by the prime minister earlier in the week.”