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‘Passive aggressive’: War of words as Premier delays critical call on testing chaos

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Monday that the government would bolster staffing at the state’s testing sites following long lines at clinics over the Christmas period. It comes as an infectious diseases expert says the long queues is putting more people at risk of catching the virus. Queensland recorded another 784 Covid cases on Monday – up from 714 the day prior – off the back of 24,515 tests, with four people hospitalised with the virus. Under current rules, interstate travellers entering Queensland from hotspots must undertake a PCR test at a clinic or centre on day five of their visit to the Sunshine State. But Ms Palaszczuk has now flagged the day five test could change to a rapid antigen test, which can be taken at home, promising to provide more details in the next two days. “I think no one estimated 400,000 people would apply to come to Queensland,” the Premier said. “But as the world is moving towards rapid antigen tests it is something that we are closely looking at and we will be guided by the chief health officer.” Infectious diseases expert Dr Paul Griffin said the day five test should be scrapped altogether. “I think that (test) adds very little other than an increased demand on our pathology testing capabilities,” he said. Professor Robert Booy from the University of Sydney went even further. “Symptomatic people are turning up for PCR tests and standing for hours in queues adding to the risk of spread to those who are negative. And if people have to wait days for results they are likely to go to the shops for groceries again adding to spread, “ he saidThe professor said that there are 15 rapid tests on market and some of them are 90 per cent reliable.“That’s not far off the 99 per cent rate of the PCR tests. Queensland needs to seriously consider introducing these tests,” he said. The Premier blamed the closure of private clinics over Christmas for testing difficulties, and said officials did not know what proportion of those getting tested were interstate travellers getting their fifth day test. Testing capacities in the Metro North, Metro South, Gold Coast and Cairns regions were bolstered yesterday to address the demand for testing. LNP frontbencher Sam O’Connor said the government should have scaled up its testing sites a week ago. “Covid was never going to wait for Christmas,” Mr O’Connor said. “It was never going to take a holiday and you should’ve had the testing capacity for any Queenslander or their relatives to get tested in a timely fashion.” Ms Palaszczuk remained firm on Monday that there would be no changes until at least January 1 on another requirement for interstate travellers from hotspots to return a negative PCR Covid test 72 hours before entering Queensland. “There’s a lot of people coming here, but we put that roadmap out and everyone was very clear about that,” she said. Ms Palaszczuk said officials were looking at how a rapid antigen test could be administered instead for the 72-hour pre-arrival test. Her refusal to make any changes to the 72-hour test rule before the new year prompted a rebuke from NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, who described it as “passive aggressive stupidity”.He said it was critical that Queensland got rid of “tourism testing” so there could be a “focus on the clinical needs of patients at risk”. “Between now and January 1, there can easily be another 100,000 to 150,000 tests purely and simply for people who want to holiday in Queensland,” Mr Hazzard warned.“The Queensland Premier wants our tourism dollars on the basis that Queensland is beautiful one day, and perfect the next. Sadly, it looks like it‘s moved to perfect one day, passive aggressive the next.“He said he had never criticised Ms Palaszczuk as Premier, “but this one is now beyond being allowed to pass without comment”. A Queensland government spokesman fired back last night, saying: “It is not surprising that the NSW Health Minister is seeking to distract from his many failures overseeing NSW’s COVID-19 response.”NED-3869-Covid-19-Exposure-Sites-QldMeanwhile, Ms Palaszczuk announced bookings for children aged 5 to 11 to get their vaccine would open from December 27 ahead of school resuming after the summer holidays. The first jabs will be administered from January 10. “That’s two weeks for kids to get their first shot and acquire a layer of protection before the school year begins,” Ms Palaszczuk said. “We’ve seen an excellent uptake in vaccination from children aged 12 to 15 and we expect a similar positive response from parents of younger kids.” Children will receive two doses, administered eight weeks apart. There are now 3,621 active Covid cases in Queensland, but no one is being treated in the intensive care unit. Download the Courier Mail app



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