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Qld braces on twin COVID fronts as Griffith staff linked to mystery case

“At this stage, all children, staff and their families have been asked to quarantine at home for 14 days,” the department said in a statement.

Queensland’s daily COVID-19 update was delayed slightly on Friday morning as news of the student’s mystery case filtered through to authorities announcing a return of most of the NSW border bubble. The young girl had spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in classes.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she took comfort in the fact that masks had been required in schools – along with much other indoor activity across south-east Queensland – as part of lingering restrictions from the recent Indooroopilly school-based cluster.

Asked about the risk associated with the case and whether a lockdown would be required, chief health officer Jeannette Young told reporters it was still too early to say but urged people to keep coming forward for tests and vaccinations.

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“I need more information, truly, I can’t make decisions with five minutes’ worth of information,” Dr Young said.

A number of close contact exposure sites, including the school and a nearby Coles supermarket and bakery, have already been identified, with additional testing sites opened across the region.

Even as the most-recent NSW truck driver was unknowingly infectious in Brisbane’s south on Monday – the fourth in a fortnight – authorities were still trying to locate people who had attended a Beenleigh shopping centre with a Logan-based driver and a four-year-old the week prior.

By then Dr Young believed most of the highest-risk contacts from a nail salon and the young girl’s day care centre were already identified and isolated.

On Friday, Dr Young said she was only alerted to a positive test from the new driver – a man in his 20s with the required first vaccine dose – on Thursday, four days after his mandatory test to enter the state, on Sunday.

Among his stops before returning to NSW the following day were a number of stores and Grill’d restaurant at the popular Westfield Garden City shopping centre.

“That’s the problem, there’s just a delay in getting testing results,” she said of the impact tens-of-thousands of people coming forward for testing in NSW was having on that system.

“It’s now five days later and we know that the Delta variant, which I assume this is, but I don’t have that result yet … transmits very quickly, so it’s important that people [get tested],” Dr Young said.

The state, like others, was looking into rapid testing capabilities for the sector which would “absolutely” be more practical than lengthy waits, but the logistics of holding up thousands of drivers at the border each day was also difficult.

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Under Queensland’s freight services protocol, sector workers who have been in a COVID-19 hotspot outside the border zone in the previous 14 days are required to give evidence of both a negative test received within seven days of entering the state and a rolling weekly testing cycle if they have continued to travel in and out of hotspots.

They must also give evidence of a test in the previous 72 hours if they have left their vehicle while in a hotspot in the past fortnight, but only need to isolate if they are symptomatic or were tested for any reason other than their work.

Non-residents are required to only exit their vehicle to use rest stop facilities, refuel, and carry out delivery, loading and workplace health and safety or fatigue management activities – including stays in overnight accommodation.

Dr Young said as the man was back in NSW, she had asked that state to quiz the man about his visits to the popular shopping centre. Both NSW police and health authorities have been approached for comment.

Employer bodies and unions representing the freight sector have urged national cabinet to consider rapid antigen testing and vaccine hubs for transport workers in an effort to help stop the further spread of COVID-19 and impact on supply chains.

Richard Olsen, the Queensland and NSW branch secretary of the Transport Workers Union, said even with the strict rules there were “obvious gaps” which also included a lack of vaccination leave scheme and nationally consistent border crossing requirements.

“This driver was doing the right thing, was checking in and getting tested, but the virus still got through the gaps that have been left open by the lack of a coordinated national plan,” Mr Olsen said.

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