Health authorities say it is unclear when Queensland’s current COVID wave will peak, as the government continues to resist calls to reinstate a mask mandate.
- COVID hospitalisations have not risen in the past 24 hours
- Acting CHO Peter Aitken says there is no mask mandate on the agenda
- Dr Aitken says people up to date with vaccinations are much less likely to die
Queensland recorded 11,687 new cases in the latest reporting period, and a further 10 COVID-related deaths.
There are 1,034 COVID patients in the state’s public and private hospitals and 21 people in intensive care.
A total of 61,151 COVID cases are active across the state.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) said mask mandates were “likely to be necessary” to prevent the health system collapsing.
“Simply saying masks are a good idea — we recommend them — does not change behaviour,” AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid said.
“How many deaths, how many permanent disabilities are acceptable to the Queensland government before they actually do what needs to be done?”
Dr Khorshid said the timing of the peak was critical to whether hospitals would cope.
“If it peaks in the next week or so, then I think hospitals will be OK, but the concern is the extraordinary numbers will keep going up,” he said.
“We are certainly expecting things to get worse before they get better, and it’s just a matter of how much worse is acceptable.”
Acting Chief Health Officer (CHO) Peter Aitken said authorities could not be certain when the current COVID wave – driven by the highly-contagious BA.4 and BA.5 variants – would peak, despite initial predictions it would be in late July or early August.
“The numbers are going up and we expect them to continue to go up for a little while yet,” Dr Aitken said.
“We’re looking at the modelling and trying to work through that as to when the peak is.
“We’ve got a number of different modelling groups looking at that [the peak] and we hope to have some more formal answers later today.”
Dr Aitken said more than 2,000 Queensland Health workers were still off sick with the virus, but there had been “almost zero” COVID transmission within the state’s hospitals.
“In many ways, it’s safer in hospitals because people are all wearing masks – in the community, people aren’t wearing masks,” he said.
Masks are mandated on public transport and in hospitals and aged care, but there is still no requirement to wear them at work.
He said the “tier system” was helping address surging demand on the state’s hospital and health services.
“That’s a really important thing because it enables each individual hospital to work out what their demand is and prioritise their resources most effectively.
“We’re also talking with our staff and working through how to protect them.”
‘Please put on that mask’
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said wearing a mask indoors would help save lives, and urged people to take precautions.
“If you have not had that booster, go and get that booster now,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“Also too, if you are indoors please put on that mask, if you are at school please put on that mask.
“Some people may think it’s not cool but if you have elderly grandparents, you could be helping to save their lives so please take this seriously and wear a mask indoors.”
Despite rising case numbers and hospitalisations, Dr Aitken said no mask mandate would be introduced.
“We’ve moved beyond that element where we’re telling people what to do, the community knows what to do,” Dr Aitken said.
“The position is that we strongly encourage, we continue to encourage, rather than mandating it.
“At this stage, there is no mandate on the agenda.”
Dr Aitken said people who are up to date with their vaccination are “three times less likely” to die from COVID.
“That’s a really important message when the bulk of our [severe] cases are particularly in the elderly group.
“It helps prevent transmission and particularly prevents transmission to the vulnerable members of our community and if we stop people getting sick, it stops people coming into hospitals and it stops people dying – it’s a really simple message.
“In any case, any increase in hospitalisations is really just a reflection of case numbers itself.
“If anything, we’re seeing less ICU admissions than we have done in the previous peak for BA.1 and BA.2 earlier this year.”
Despite calls from some regional doctors, Dr Aitken said it was unlikely mass vaccination clinics would return.
“We would rather keep our staff to provide direct clinical care in hospitals than do things that the pharmacies and the GPs are really good at doing every day,” he said.