Brisbane has been plunged into a three-day lockdown just days ahead of the Easter weekend after four new local coronavirus cases were found amid an outbreak of the highly-contagious UK variant in Queensland.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said six other cases were found in hotel quarantine.
Three of the new cases are close contacts of existing or historical cases but those infected may have been out in the community – raising the risk more transmission may have occurred.
Two of the cases visited the popular tourist town of Byron Bay in northern NSW while infectious, sparking fears the virus has spread interstate.
From 5pm on Monday evening, masks will be mandatory across Greater Brisbane – which includes Brisbane, Logan, Moreton Bay, Ipswich and Redlands – and schools will be forced to close.
More than two million residents living in those areas will be allowed outside only for essential reasons – for work, to buy essential supplies or for care.
Only two visitors will be allowed in the home under the new rules and restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway service only.
The UK strain of coronavirus – known as B117 – is believed to be at least 50 per cent more transmissable than other variants.
The announcement comes after a Covid-positive man who was wrongly accused by the Queensland government of throwing a party for 25 friends while waiting for his test results hit out at health officials over the embarrassing mix-up.
Brisbane has been plunged into lockdown just days ahead of the Easter weekend. Pictured are residents lining up at a testing clinic in Brisbane on January 8
BRISBANE’S THREE-DAY LOCKDOWN: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW RULES
Greater Brisbane’s three-day lockdown will begin at 5pm on Monday March 29 after a new cluster of Covid cases grew to seven
This includes Brisbane, Logan, Moreton Bay, Ipswich and Redlands
– Schools, restaurants, pubs and cafes will be closed – but can open for takeaway
– People can only leave their homes for four essential reasons: essential work, essential shopping, medical and exercise
– Masks will be mandatory everywhere inside in Greater Brisbane
– Pubs, cafes and restaurants outside of Greater Brisbane will have to ensure all customers sit down
– In the rest of Queensland, there is a 30-person limit on household gatherings
Masks will be mandatory across Greater Brisbane – which includes Brisbane, Logan, Moreton Bay, Ipswich and Redlands – for three days from 5pm on Monday
Ms Palaszczuk said she was declaring the whole of Greater Brisbane a hotspot from 5pm and called on other states and territories to do so too.
‘There is now more community transmission, and these people have been out and about in the community, and that is of concern to Queensland Health,’ she said.
‘This will also enable our health authorities to get on top of the contact tracing,’ she said.
‘I know this will mean some disruption to people’s lives, but we’ve done this before, and we’ve got through it over those three days in the past, and if everyone does the right thing I’m sure that we will be able to get through it again.’
One of the cases had travelled to Gladstone. Anyone who has been in Brisbane since March 20 will also come under the restrictions.
A nurse and her sister spent time in the Byron Bay area while infectious, prompting officials in Queensland to call their New South Wales counterparts to warn them about the cases.
The restrictions were announced despite Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young promising earlier this month there would be no more strict restrictions in Brisbane even if there was another outbreak.
On March 19, she said only the most vulnerable residents in Brisbane – like those in hospitals and aged care homes – would be locked down in the future.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Monday morning as she ordered the whole of Greater Brisbane into a three-day lockdown ahead of the Easter weekend
Greater Brisbane’s schools will stay open for the children of essential workers under the latest lockdown.
Ms Palaszczuk called on residents not to panic and start panic buying.
‘The supermarkets, the shops are full of supplies and you will still be able to go out and get food as part of this lockdown,’ she said.
‘So please don’t go out and panic buy today. The shops will operate – the food shops will operate as per usual.’
Queensland Health were earlier forced to back-pedal after claiming on Saturday Lachlan Simpson, 25, ignored orders to self-isolate and instead held a party at his home in the Moreton Bay suburb of Strathpine.
Mr Simpson was a close contact of a 26-year-old Stafford man from Brisbane’s north who tested positive to the UK variant of Covid-19.
Beachgoers at The Pass in Byron Bay. Two of the cases announced on Monday visited the popular tourist town in northern NSW while infectious
Lachlan Simpson, from south-east Queensland’s Moreton Bay region, was falsely accused of ignoring orders to self-isolate and holding a party at his home
The 26-year-old’s case is linked to the strain which infected a doctor at the Princess Alexandra Hospital two weeks ago – but officials have no idea how it jumped between the two, who are not known to have ever met.
But the ‘party’ was in fact a meeting of just five people at his home – four of whom were housemates – while a gathering and pub crawl happened two weeks ago.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk admitted on Monday she may have been forced to introduce even tougher Covid-19 restrictions had officials not realised their mistake.
‘Thankfully, the police were able to go and double check and rule that [party] out and speak to the individual and spoke to the neighbours,’ she told the Today show.
‘I want to thank both the authorities for working closely together to rule that out.’
She did not apologise though for the mistake a day after Health Minister Yvette D’Ath also refused to do.
Mr Simpson said he believed the government had muddled up the dates after he told them he hosted a party two weeks earlier
Mr Simpson said he believed the government had muddled the dates after he told them he hosted a party two weeks ago – likely well before he was infectious.
‘I told them that I had a gathering two weeks prior to me getting tested and somehow they’ve taken that day and moved it forward to Friday,’ he told 9News.
‘We went on a pub crawl the next day (after the party two weeks ago) but I think at that point I had no symptoms at all.’
The Strathpine man said he was stunned to discover he had been accused of flouting self-isolation rules.
‘My heart’s been racing for the last 24 hours,’ he said. ‘I didn’t have a party with 25 people.’
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath – who revealed the mix-up on Sunday – said the information they provided the public was ‘given by the man himself’ while assisting contact tracers.
But she admitted there is a possibility that authorities misunderstood the information he provided.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said authorities were only told the information they received about Mr Simpson was wrong on Sunday morning
She said the update that the information was wrong only came through on Sunday morning.
‘I understand that as time has gone on, and overnight, there has been further investigation, an independent investigation from what the gentleman had said, whether it was a misunderstanding at the time or what it was, I can’t tell you, ‘ Ms D’ath said.
‘But that’s what the health officials who originally spoke to this gentleman, when they first picked him up, that is what they understood had been said and that had to be acted on quickly.’
Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said it was ‘inflammatory’ to refer to the gathering on Friday night as a party.
He said there was ‘no evidence’ anybody in attendance committed an offence.
The 25 people first identified as being at the party were initially forced to self-isolate, but there are now just five people who are undergoing mandatory quarantine.
It is understood most of the people at the gathering and now in isolation were hia housemates.
Ms D’Ath asked people to refrain from threatening and abusing people online as mistakes can occasionally happen, but said the outcome was ‘extremely fortunate’.
‘That the numbers are far lower and it is contained to predominantly housemates, that is a good outcome, much better outcome than what we thought was occurring yesterday,’ she said.
The Sunshine State was put on high alert on Friday after a 26-year-old Stafford man, from Brisbane’s north, tested positive to the highly infectious UK varient of the virus. Pictured: Two people wear face masks
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk closed aged care centres, hospitals and prisons to visitors in Brisbane in the wake of the outbreak (pictured, testing in February)
‘It is disappointing that we have ended up in this situation, but we also have to act on the information that we have at the time.’
Dr Young said the scare is a reminder that Queensland is not out of the woods yet and that Covid still poses a major risk.
She said she would not make any promises regarding potential future lockdowns as she urged people to come forward and get tested.
‘I cannot rule out anything but I’m very hopeful if we do our bit, which is to come forward and get tested when you are sick, as our first case did. He came forward while I’m sure he was thinking this can’t possibly be COVID and tested positive. So we just need people to not make any assumptions,’ she said.
Dr Young said the scare is a reminder that Queensland is not out of the woods yet and that Covid still poses a major risk as she urged people to seek testing. Pictured: A drive through testing clinic in Brisbane back in January
The state recorded three new cases of Covid on Sunday, including one within the community.
The new case is the brother of the 26-year-old man who sparked the fears of an outbreak when he tested positive on Thursday.
Dr Young explained on Sunday the brother is likely the ‘missing link’ contact tracers have been searching for.
Early indications suggest the virus was in his system longer than his brother and that he has entirely recovered, suggesting he was infected first and passed the virus on.
Authorities are investigating whether he came into contact or had any connection with a doctor from the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane on March 13.
Genomic sequencing confirmed that his brother had the same strain as the doctor, and Queensland Health say the cases are likely linked, but authorities are still scrambling to work out how.
More to follow.