Nearly 2000 people who may have been exposed to coronavirus have been identified by contact tracers after two COVID-positive women spent eight days in Brisbane mingling when they were infected.
The state had 200 staff trained in touch tracking before the virus hit Queensland but that number rose to 1213, including 524 public servants trained to assist during the pandemic.
Such contact tracers worked around the clock to locate people who may have come into contact with 19-year-old Olivia Muranga and 21-year-old Diana Lasu, who screened COVID-19 positively after moving to Melbourne.
While contagious the couple visited schools, restaurants , shops and a medical centre in the towns of Brisbane and Logan.
Health authorities suspect that the women unknowingly spread the virus to at least one other male, Bellbird Park’s 27-year-old man, who dined next to them at a table on July 23.
The guy, who tested positively on Friday, dined with his wife and sister at the Madtongsan IV Restaurant in Sunnybank.
Ms Muranga and Ms Lasu, along with a non-COVID-positive 21-year-old Algester woman, face fines of up to $13,345 and a maximum of five years behind bars after allegedly lying to health officials to escape compulsory quarantine following a trip to Melbourne.
Their suspected failure to isolate has caused a major response in health, with health officials already bracing for an epidemic.
Doctors at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, where women live in forced isolation, were advised to brace for a possible flood of patients with coronavirus and the official emergency response was upgraded from “tier zero” to “tier one.”
“So far we have been lucky in Queensland to avoid the significant COVID-19 outbreaks that New South Wales and Victoria have been contending with in recent weeks; however, this latest example of community transmission should give us all pause to reflect on the importance of maintaining social distancing and good hygiene in the current climate,” hospital staff were told in an email.
“Our incident management team and are using the next several days to prepare ourselves for an increase in presentations and potentially admission of sick patients with COVID-19 from our community.
“COVID-19 is still alive and well in Australia and we need to keep that in mind as we go about our daily business at work and at home.”
At the school where Ms Muranga worked as a cleaner, as well as at the Browns Plains Community Health Center and the Orion Springfield Central Car Park, new fever clinics have been created.
Testing has been ramped up at Logan and QEII hospitals, with fever clinic hours being extended and more workers being brought on to cope with the influx of people who want to be checked.
15,876 people were screened for the virus on Wednesday and Thursday, with thousands more lined up Friday at clinics throughout the state.
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said that as more data rolled in, officials will have a better understanding of how large the cluster would be over the next couple of days.
“We have excellent police who have done a really good job all through this,” Dr Young said.
“We know police are very good at interviewing people who don’t necessarily want to tell the truth and we’ve checked that with supporting information from other travel companions so we’re pretty comfortable.
“But having said that, we don’t know where this virus could be, so here we’ve got a gentlemen in Bellbird Park who’s suddenly popped up positive.
“At any point in Queensland today we could have cases pop up, so that’s why the most important message is, if you’re sick, stay home and get tested.”