Queensland health authorities say contact tracers in NSW are taking too long to reach out to those exposed to COVID cases, which they fear could lead to the virus spreading through the Sunshine State.
The state’s health minister, Yvette D’Ath, said it was taking nearly two weeks for people to be told they were linked to known infections in Sydney.
“We believe that we have positive cases in Queensland,” she said, expressing concern that the long delay could lead to a lax approach to testing and isolation, particularly over the Christmas break.
“We hope every one of these positive cases are in quarantine and isolating as directed.”
The claim comes as a new infection in Queensland was linked to the northern beaches cluster but was not one of the 53 people NSW health authorities had notified its Quensland counterparts had been in contact with known cases.
“New South Wales are still tracing contacts since the 11th of December,” the Queensland health minister told reporters on Thursday morning.
“So as recent as the last 24 hours, people were being contacted in Queensland and told that they have been in close contact with a positive case since the 11th of December.
“That means we are getting very close to that 14 days that people are only just finding out now that they have been in contact who is positive and are being asked to isolate.”
Ms D’Ath pleaded with anyone in Queensland who had been in the known hotspot areas to follow the strict isolation and quarantine health orders.
The case reported on Thursday, a man in his 40s, had been in the northern beaches at the time the deadly pandemic was spreading through the community.
When he returned home to the Sunshine State, he had a test on December 18 which was negative. But he remained in isolation and later returned a positive result after feeling unwell.
“I want to say thank you to that gentleman, he has done everything right since coming back into Queensland,” Ms D’Ath said.
“He has been isolating himself in quarantine at home, which has significantly reduced any risk of spreading this to other people and this is the gold standard of what we expect of anyone who has travelled from the northern beaches.”
Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said the fact the man wasn’t identified by NSW contact tracers as having a link to a known infection should serve as a warning for anyone who visited the northern beaches to be proactive with testing and isolation.
“Don’t wait for a text message from NSW that you are a close contact from someone on the northern beaches,” she said.
“If you have been in the northern beaches you have been asked to go into home quarantine up until just recently when (we announced) everyone goes into hotel quarantine, you must absolutely stay in the home quarantine and should not have contact with anyone else, and you should not have visitors to your house.”