Queensland’s chief health officer says residents have “two choices” as the Omicron variant embeds itself in the community.
Queensland has reported a dramatic surge in daily Covid numbers, with new infections nearly doubling to a record 369 on Thursday.
But far from panicking over the rise, chief health officer Dr John Gerrard says the spread is “essential” and “necessary” in order for the pandemic to evolve into an endemic phase.
“We all have to have immunity, you will all have to develop immunity and there’s two ways you can do that: by being vaccinated or getting infected,” Dr Gerrard said.
“But the early information we‘re getting is it seems to be a little milder and certainly the vaccine is protective.
“We’re not going to stop it. We’re going to just try and slow it down a little bit to enable people to get those third doses.”
Queensland’s new numbers are a significant rise on the 186 cases recorded on Wednesday, and 86 on Tuesday, as the Omicron variant embeds itself in the community.
Crucially, just one person is in hospital specifically for Covid treatment.
The total number of infected people in hospital has risen from 79 to 93, and 163 people with Covid are receiving care at home.
The number of active cases in the state is now at 807 – up from 447 on Wednesday – with 123 confirmed Omicron cases.
However, Dr Gerrard said that Omicron figure was likely higher because of a lag in the testing system.
Authorities expect case numbers could reach the thousands by January if daily cases double every 48 hours as expected.
Queensland’s admission that it is necessary for the virus to spread contrasts starkly to the messaging in the months prior to the reopening of borders.
Of course, the state’s early border stance and focus on containment came as vaccination rates lagged, with the threat of infections from NSW and Victoria presenting potentially deadlier consequences.
So far, authorities are confident Queensland’s vaccination drive and border pass regime has prevented a more significant jump in hospitalisations.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she remained concerned over vaccination rates on the Gold Coast, which is one of the most exposed communities to people arriving from NSW and Victoria.
“They‘re coming here to the Gold Coast and the Gold Coast is exposed because people are not vaccinated,” Ms Palaszczuk said
Thursday’s caseload update also comes as new mask-wearing rules for certain venues come into place.
Face masks became mandatory in cinemas and theatres, and for hospitality staff, from 5am on Thursday morning.
Masks were already mandatory in supermarkets, shops, on public transport, and in rideshares.
Dr Gerrard on Wednesday said it was inevitable that public health units will wind down their investigation efforts as the virus spreads further.