New South Wales could miss its 1 November deadline for reopening with Queensland, after the eastern state recorded new locally acquired COVID-19 cases.
A major condition for Queensland to open to NSW visitors and returned travellers was that the state record no unlinked community transmission of the coronavirus for 28 consecutive days.
But the eastern state yesterday revealed that among the 12 new cases of COVID-19 recorded overnight, eight were locally acquired with the source of three then mystery cases in Sydney under investigation.
The state recorded five new cases of community transmission today, all linked back to known clusters, as well.
If NSW Health officials had been unable to find the source of yesterday’s cases, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, may have considered resetting the 28-day clock for the reopening of their border.
However, contact tracers in NSW believe they have now linked all eight cases from yesterday back to a known cluster in Liverpool.
Under guidelines that Queensland authorities said were nationally agreed to, NSW Health officials had 48 hours to link the three cases to a known cluster for the clock to keep ticking, the Australian Associated Press reported.
But Premier Gladys Berejiklian claims she had never heard of this criterion.
“I still don’t know where the Queensland government got that 48-hour deadline from. It was completely new to me,” she told the press, today.
However, Dr Young said today she had “discussed this with the Chief Health Officer in NSW” – Dr Kerry Chant – on Thursday, as reported by 9News.
“A decision was made nationally that the 48 hours would start from when the case interview has occurred,” she said.
“And that makes sense, because that is when you have got the information from the patient about where they had been and where they might have contracted it.”
Dr Young added that health authorities would “wait a bit longer” before deciding on whether to push back the planned border reopening with NSW.
She told the press that good progress had been made in NSW and praised their contact tracing of new COVID-19 cases.
“They have found links for seven of the eight cases that they notified yesterday,” Dr Young said.
“NSW has extremely good contact tracing capability and they’re using that at the moment.
“We just need to wait a bit longer before we decide whether or not there has been any need to change that planned opening to NSW that at this point in time is planned for the 1st of November.
“We use that 28 days of no un-linked community cases to assist us in determining whether it is safe at that point in time at the end of the month to open to another state.”
Berejiklian told the press yesterday that the current situation demonstrated that Queensland’s 28-day rule was unrealistic.
“Until the end of the pandemic, it’s highly unlikely that NSW will ever get to 28 days of no community transmission because that is not how a pandemic works,” she said, via ABC News.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was fed up with the conditions, directing criticism at Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and not his Queensland counterpart.
“I’m over it … I’ve got to say I think Premier Palaszczuk is being political – she is being cruel,” Minister Hazard said.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told the press on Thursday that she remained on “high alert” over the cases and was “not ruling out anything” when asked about the tentative plan to reopen the border on 1 November.
She has extended the deadline for NSW to trace cases by another day.
“There’s another 24 hours for them to look at where those cases came from,” Premier Palaszczuk said.
“[I’m] looking forward to what the Premier of NSW has got to say. We hope NSW gets on top of those cases very quickly.”
Despite the critique from NSW’s in-power LNP, Queensland’s potential decision to keep its border closed has the backing of the state’s LNP – specifically, Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, according to InQueensland.
Despite previously questioning whether the border policy was political and not evidence-based, Frecklington yesterday backed Queensland continuing to rely on health advice.
The Opposition Leader was briefed by Dr Young yesterday morning after Frecklington complained of the premier not facilitating such a meeting.
The LNP leader called on NSW to trace the latest cases as soon as possible, in a sign her border rhetoric may have shifted, InQueensland reported.
“We would like to see, and like to make sure, that our borders don’t have to be shut for a day longer than they have to,” Frecklington said.
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