“I really hope that everyone acts responsibly, that they enjoy the lifting of some of the stay-at-home restrictions,” she said.
“That they can get out and go and see their family and friends, go for a picnic, go for a walk in a national park … this is going to be a great opportunity for Queenslanders to really get out and enjoy the fresh air.”
The changes mean Queenslanders can travel up to 50 kilometres from their homes for social activities, including visiting beaches, parks and shops.
But they must still abide by strict social-distancing rules while out and about, with police warning they will continue to impose $1300 fines on anyone mixing in large groups.
A former Queensland chief health officer, public health expert Professor Gerard Fitzgerald, said the staggered easing of restrictions was the best way to test whether there would be an increase of virus cases, while still allowing those potential cases to be contained.
“You have to be cautious, because we don’t know if there’s some silent cluster [of virus cases] somewhere that hasn’t shown up in testing, and there’s a delay [in showing symptoms] so someone might have caught it this week and hasn’t shown up in the figures yet,” Professor Fitzgerald said.
“But there doesn’t appear to be any community transmission, so the wise move is to open things up but do it gradually.”
Professor Fitzgerald said the likelihood of people catching a cold or flu as they socialised more at the start of the traditional flu season was far higher than that of catching coronavirus.
Lab-confirmed cases of flu have been hugely reduced from the same time last year, one of the worst flu seasons on record.
“When trying to deal with COVID-19, you don’t want the added confusion of a flu epidemic,” Professor Fitzgerald said.
Current Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said there should not be a case spike in the coming days because people should mostly be staying with people from their household.
“We just have to see what people do to respond because it is actually going to be quite difficult and I don’t underestimate it,” she said.
“If everyone decides on Saturday they want to go and buy a Mother’s Day gift for the following weekend, we could have problems in our shops.
“So people need to use a lot of common sense that where they go, they need to look around and think if it is actually safe and ‘do we have too many people here?’ “
Dr Young said if too many people flouted the rules she would consider tightening them again.
Some people had already been caught jumping the gun on the easing of restrictions, with several spoken to by police on the Gold Coast for hitting the beaches this week.
Meanwhile, a cluster of cases at the Cairns Hospital pathology lab appears to be contained.
Don Mackie, executive director of medical services at the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, said after four pathology lab workers tested positive for the virus more than 2000 staff were screened but none tested positive.
“The screening of staff will continue until we are completely satisfied this small cluster has been contained,” he said.
Also on Friday, the Premier announced she would open the Queensland border for NRL teams to allow the 2020 season to resume so long as it did not put the state’s “excellent work” containing COVID-19 at risk.
Six Queenslanders have died from coronavirus, 943 patients have recovered and 2715 remain in quarantine.
Stuart Layt covers health, science and technology for the Brisbane Times. He was formerly the Queensland political reporter for AAP.