Critical week as cluster spreads across city
NERVOUS shoppers stepped out in masks and cleaners donned hazmat suits as they raced to disinfect dozens of stores as a growing COVID-19 cluster creeps further into Brisbane.
Concerned residents said they felt the killer coronavirus was now knocking at their door, with the outbreak linked to the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre in Wacol spreading to include two new cases and a string of public health alerts issued for locations ranging from Camp Hill in the east to Indooroopilly in the west.
As authorities warned the looming week would be critical to get on top of the outbreak, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday confirmed two new people - including a baby boy - had contracted the virus, bringing the total number of cases linked to the cluster to nine.
Officials revealed comprehensive list of locations the latest cases had travelled in recent weeks, including major shopping centres, restaurants, retail stores and supermarkets in suburbs such as Browns Plains, Forest Lake, Marsden, Slacks Creek and Greenslopes.
One "nervous" shopper, Tony Sherry, said he felt COVID-18 was knocking at the door and was compelled to wear a mask to Camp Hill marketplace yesterday.
"It was a bit concerning reading the news this morning," he said. "It's right in your neighbourhood now … so close to home. Even though we're very much aware of it, this makes it more real."
The Premier described the latest results as encouraging, but said the state was not "out of the woods yet" as she urged Queenslanders to familiarise themselves with the latest public health alert.
"We are focused on getting the testing done," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"But also too it is absolutely imperative that people in southeast Queensland look at that list … and check if you have been to any of those areas recently.
"And if you have any symptoms, today would be a good day to go and get tested."
More than 200 tests on staff and 111 tests on residents at the detention centre have come back negative, with more tests to be carried out on the remaining employees and youth detainees.
Dozens of health officers are working around the clock to track down any further cases linked to the cluster, with Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young describing it as the "biggest challenge" Queensland had faced for months.
"Our contact tracing teams have done a remarkable job tracking down around hundreds people who had contact with the eight cases," she said.
"These people have been advised to get tested if they feel even the slightest bit unwell. We're throwing a lot of resources behind our response."
Dr Young said it was "critical" that anyone who was unwell over the next week immediately came forward for testing so authorities could confine the cluster as much as possible.
"It is reassuring that we've only had those two additional cases, but the next week is absolutely critical," she said.
"There are a lot of staff who work in that (detention) centre - over 500.
"And those staff work in multiple other places. This is why this cluster is such a risk to us and we need to really focus the next few days."
Queensland Health is now sequencing the genome of the virus in the cluster in an effort to work out how it began.
Of the nine cases linked to the cluster, five are workers associated with the detention centre and four are relatives of workers.
Dr Young said the venues announced in the public health alert were not the only places visited by the latest cases, but they were the ones health officials were most concerned about.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles said more than 6,800 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, but insisted many more were needed.
He said test numbers had previously reached about 20,000 a day.
"So we need to test a lot, lot more people to be confident that we are finding any cases that are out there," Mr Miles said.
For Montanna Stoneman, 24, who both works and shops at Carindale, this week's newest cluster has once again placed her family on edge.
Currently living with her mother and brother, who are both highly susceptible to the virus, Ms Stoneman has taken up the household shopping and needs to take extra precautions when working.
"My workplace has been very on top of making sure we're okay and they've given us the option to wear masks, gloves and have sanitiser available for us," Ms Stoneman said.
Bunnings yesterday revealed that a confirmed case of COVID-19 who visited the Browns Plains store on Friday August 14 wore a face mask.
"Queensland health has advised that there is no need for customers or team to self-isolate," Bunnings regional operations manager Margaret Walford said.
The store has been deep cleaned nine times since the visit.
Originally published as Critical week as cluster spreads across city