Queensland health authorities are scrambling to test all residents and staff at an aged care facility in Rockhampton, Queensland after a nurse working there tested positive for COVID-19 on the evening of Thursday, 14 May.
The North Rockhampton Nursing Centre is now in lockdown and a rapid response team has arrived from Brisbane to assist local healthcare staff and to isolate people who may have been in contact with the nurse.
Dr Jeanette Young, the state’s chief health officer, said the 115 residents and 180 healthcare workers based there were being urgently assessed to determine whether they needed to go into quarantine for 14 days. She added that it was “very unfortunate” that the nurse had worked while unwell.
It is believed the worker may have been exposed to the virus while on a recent trip to Brisbane.
Earlier in the day, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had confirmed an active case in the central Queensland city, saying it was “of some concern”.
Read the Premier’s Tweet about the latest coronavirus cases in Queensland here:
Care facilities worldwide are high risk
Aged care facilities are at high risk during the pandemic. At Newmarch House in Sydney, for example, 16 patients have died from COVID-19 to date.
There have also been a number of deaths and large-scale infections at Baptist Care’s Dorothy Henderson Lodge in northwest Sydney.
In the United Kingdom, the BBC reported on 1 May that a quarter of all deaths associated with the virus in England and Wales were in care homes. In Scotland, 45% of all fatalities came from care facilities.
Possible outbreak comes as Qld begins easing restrictions
The possible Rockhampton outbreak comes at a time when Queensland is easing its restrictions on movement.
Residents are being allowed to visit restaurants, pubs and cafes and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced that several of the state’s popular island destinations will be reopened for day trips.
“We will be easing restrictions this weekend for Fraser, Moreton, and North Stradbroke Islands,” she said. “They will be reopened for day trips with the view, of course, that they will be open for camping and residential accommodation for the school holidays. If everything goes to plan there, they will be open for the school holidays.”
New rules for travelling in the Queensland outback
People living in the state’s outback areas are already allowed to travel 500km from their communities and Palaszczuk announced that, because of the challenges involved in travelling so far, they are allowed to stay overnight with family and friends, or at accommodation.
“But they must remain in those outback areas,” the Premier emphasised.