Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced that Queensland has recorded no new locally acquired cases of coronavirus – a result she described as “fantastic news”.
Seven cases were recorded in the last 24 hours, all among overseas arrivals now in hotel quarantine.
On Friday morning the premier announced one other, historical case, which authorities believe is the original missing link from the first cluster in Queensland.
There were 35,357 tests across the state on Thursday, with the premier saying the numbers were “great results”.
Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, welcomed the news, and thanked residents for respecting the government’s restrictions.
“Thank you for everyone for coping with these masks, they’re very uncomfortable, and hopefully we’ll be able to get rid of them soon,” she said. “It makes an enormous difference.”
The historical case, which Young explained was a nurse who had caught the infection from an overseas arrival, was the missing link to the cluster in Brisbane’s inner north.
“When you don’t know the links, when you know there’s still something out there – I’m just never sure what else could be going on, what other chains of transmission, what other friendship groups could there be, what other venues.”
Young said the nurse hadn’t actually presented with any symptoms but had shared with authorities any venues she’s visited while infectious.
“She’s never been sick,” she said. “And I’m deeming her infectious period from [March] 10, which was the day after she treated the patient, from the 10th through to the 23rd.
“So, all of those venues she’s been at, she shared them all with us, and she’s got a fantastic memory.”
The discovery will help authorities fill in the gaps from the first cluster. Initially a returning traveller infected a doctor in March but a locally acquired case did not appear until 12 days later.
Authorities have been concerned that there were untraced chains of transmission in the community because it was unclear what the connection was between the doctor and the case that started the cluster in Stafford.
Young explained that the nurse had passed on the infection to her circle of friends and family, and that finding the missing link was an “enormous relief”.
“The nurse, again, through absolutely no fault of her own, has then gone home and transmitted to her partner, who is one of that group that we know who live in that north Brisbane area and a close social network. So then it spread within that network.”
“And then we had the gentleman come forward, just outside of the blue, and get tested. So, due to all of those people doing what they did, so effectively, we found that cluster.”
Although both the premier and the chief health officer said they were happy with the state’s response to the cluster, Young warned the threat wasn’t over yet.
“I won’t be totally confident until everyone is vaccinated,” she said.
“You really and truly don’t know there isn’t another case, there hasn’t been any transmission. That’s why we need to maintain our restrictions and mask-wearing for another 14 days.”
The premier also announced that vaccinations in the state had climbed above 82,000, but Young indicated that it wasn’t strange the nurse hadn’t yet been vaccinated.
“We hadn’t rolled out the program enough for everyone to be vaccinated.”
She said the state had introduced a new policy wherein only health workers who have been vaccinated, or had at least one dose of the vaccine, could manage Covid-19 cases.
“That’s of course for their safety, and I’m also going to be encouraging anyone who lives in the household of a healthcare worker, that is now dealing with Covid cases, we have included you in 1b. So you can come forward and get vaccinated to try and protect the other members in the household.”
The news came after the premier announced the early lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in greater Brisbane on Thursday, before the Easter long weekend.
But some restrictions will remain across the state, including a mandate that people carry masks at all times and wear masks in indoor public spaces.
People visiting restaurants and other establishments must remain seated, and home gatherings are limited to 30 people.
Young said the restrictions had to remain in place for the time being, because in close spaces where people spend lots of time is “where Covid spreads”.
New South Wales reported no new cases of the virus on Friday, the second day without any community transmission in the state after a case near Byron Bay on Wednesday prompted the reintroduction of some restrictions on gatherings over the weekend.
The case on Wednesday, a man in 20s, had visited the Byron Beach hotel last Friday night, sitting near the bachelorette party that formed part of the cluster of cases in Queensland.
But despite a significant uptick in testing, particularly in the Byron area, NSW has now gone two days without an additional case. On Friday NSW Health released an updated list of venues visited by people with the virus.
The list included the Park hotel in Byron Bay on Sunday 28 March from 1.45pm to 2.10pm, the Suffolk Park Bakery on Saturday 27 March between 12.45pm and 1.15pm, and 2.45pm and 3.15pm, and the Suffolk Park shopping centre on Sunday 27 March between 10.30am and 11.45am.