A major contact tracing effort will continue in south-east Queensland today as authorities work to determine if a new locally acquired case of COVID-19 in a Brisbane landscaper has spread further in the community.
Genomic testing on Friday linked the 26-year-old Stafford man’s infection to another cluster in early March, which involved a doctor at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital and two returned travellers in hotel quarantine in the city.
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said the source of his infection remained unknown, but said an unidentified intermediary was probably the link between the first cluster and the new infection.
Lack of symptoms ‘tricky for testing’
University of Queensland immunologist Dr Larisa Labzin said the new case showed there could be transmission within the community.
“We’ve had zero local cases, so we want to know where that’s come from,” she said. “It’s entirely possible that some people have caught it and they haven’t known that they’ve had it, because it doesn’t necessarily give you symptoms. “That makes it a bit tricky for testing.”
Health authorities have reimposed restrictions on visitors at residential aged care facilities, disability accommodation centres, correctional facilities and hospitals across Brisbane and Moreton Bay, to be reviewed on Monday.
Dr Labzin said the extent of the spread from the Stafford man would likely depend on how active he was in the community and how strictly people were following COVID-safe measures.
“It’s really a question of whether distancing practices were still being met, including good hygiene, because we know that that plays a huge part in limiting the spread,” she said.
“We’re lucky at the moment, it’s quite warm, so we’re spending a lot of time outside and that definitely helps us prevent transmission.
“Even while things appear to be pretty normal with not many cases around, it can very easily change … so, it’s always worth making sure you wash your hands and you’re still maintaining that distance — you’re still being COVID safe.”
Dr Young has urged the community to be vigilant with their COVID safety in response to the new case.
“We need to make sure we are socially distancing and where we can’t, to wear a mask,” Dr Young said.
The use of masks hasn’t been mandated but people have been asked to wear them in crowded situations this weekend.
Dr Labzin said the level of response from the government was appropriate, but people could take further action on their own accord.
“Even if masks haven’t been mandated, if it’s something small that you can do, that will make it safer for you, and for everyone else, like maintaining good hygiene, maintaining that distance, those things are really important.”
“We have to stay vigilant.”