Which COVID-19 vaccine side effects to look out for

True cost of COVID-19 to Gold Coast and Qld

ONLY now, 12 months on from the first recorded case in Queensland, is the real toll from COVID-19 emerging. Below are the responses to a parliamentary health committee inquiry.

 

Beaches closed during COVID. AAP Image/Darren England)
Beaches closed during COVID. AAP Image/Darren England)

COVID DEATHS

One year on since the first recorded COVID death, the figures worldwide have topped more than two million people. Cases have now climbed to 95 million worldwide.

Six deaths were recorded at the beginning of the pandemic in Queensland; none since. The state has had 1303 positive COVID-19 cases, of which 23 are currently active, all isolated in hospital.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said she was proud of the state's response with minimal community transmission, but regarded the risk as remaining high with the virus still detected in wastewater.

The virus is "unpredictable" and "we will need to continue current measures such as social distancing and hotel quarantine".

Dr Young says emergency powers must remain in place to respond quickly to the spread of more stronger variants.

"Delays in a response to a potential outbreak can mean that it is too late," she says.

Queensland Chief health Officer Jeannette Young. Picture David Clark.
Queensland Chief health Officer Jeannette Young. Picture David Clark.

WIDER HEALTH IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY

Mental Health Commissioner Ivan Frkovic said every Queenslander was impacted by COVID in terms of increasing stress levels.

The impacts ranged from financial challenges, job losses, pressures of home schooling and working from home along with isolation and border closures.

Medicare subsidised mental health service provisions had increased by 15 per cent.

Paramedics and police reported "heightened levels of psychological distress" from call-outs to more mental health patients.

Between March and August last year, the Queensland Ambulance Service reported a 20 per cent increase in triple-0 mental health-related incidents.

Self-harm and suicidal ideation presentations to emergency departments increased by 11 per cent.

Kids Helpline had a 24 per cent increase in counselling services.

Alcohol and drug information services recorded a 54 per cent increase in weekly calls between March and June last year.

A closed sign is seen at Surfers Paradise business. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
A closed sign is seen at Surfers Paradise business. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

POLICE RESPONSE TO THE PANDEMIC

Under public health directions, police processed 32,553 international passengers and served 41,197 quarantine notices.

They met 12,287 domestic flights including almost 2000 from COVID hot spots.

Police have refused the entry of 1348 passengers into Queensland and directed 36,754 people into quarantine.

Officers have intercepted 1,182,498 vehicles at the border, turned around 14,417, which included 22,290 people in the cars and 19,432 directed into quarantine.

Police were required to do 13,161 compliance visits.

About 2763 people remain in quarantine, 60,449 have completed time in selected hotels and 10,827 compliance visits were conducted of those who remained in their homes.

While 2666 fines were issued for noncompliance almost five per cent were later withdrawn. About 50 people were arrested.

With restrictions lifted, about 600 police are working on COVID. Numbers peaked at 1300.

Deputy Commissioner Stephan Gollschewski expects the COVID Command will continue to require some sort of response "into next year".

Deputy Commissioner Stephan Gollschewski. Pic Glenn Barnes.
Deputy Commissioner Stephan Gollschewski. Pic Glenn Barnes.

COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE LOSS OF HUMAN RIGHTS

The Queensland Human Rights Commission received 440 inquiries and had managed 158 complaints. Fifty-four related to hotel quarantine.

Some hotels, including the Voco Hotel on the Gold Coast, had very small rooms.

Commissioner Scott McDougall told a parliamentary committee "there were rooms being used that do not even have a window, let alone a window that opens".

About 63,000 people have been through the quarantine process with only one breach leading to a community transmission.

 

A Queensland Entry Pass which is being given out to eligible motorists stopped at a checkpoint on the Gold Coast Highway at Coolangatta on the Queensland/NSW border. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
A Queensland Entry Pass which is being given out to eligible motorists stopped at a checkpoint on the Gold Coast Highway at Coolangatta on the Queensland/NSW border. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

HOW BUSINESSES AND THE ECONOMY WERE IMPACTED

Queensland Hotels Association chief executive Bernie Hogan says the 102-day shutdown "brought our industry to its knees in many parts".

The most recent lockdown in Brisbane cost the industry $40 million worth of revenue, not accounting for impact on the Gold Coast from missing city travellers.

Mr Hogan describes Easter as "the valley of death" for most businesses.

"There are no forward bookings. We are talking single-digit occupancies, which is horrific when you are looking at those people who have come through the year they have," he said.

Gold Coast Chamber of Commerce president Martin Hall said businesses were not prepared for the "uncertainty and moving targets" set by the government on lockdowns, restrictions and border closures.

The chamber's own pulse survey revealed a 50 per cent drop in the September quarter in revenue for businesses.

Mr Hall said the last lockdown gave businesses no capacity to plan for "day four".

"Businesses, as I said, are very resilient and we can adapt, as long as we have a visual horizon. That is the key," he says.

 

A cyclist riding past a barrier across the Queensland and New South Wales border. (AAP Image/Darren England)
A cyclist riding past a barrier across the Queensland and New South Wales border. (AAP Image/Darren England)

"CATASTROPHIC" IMPACT ON TOURISM

Tourism accounted for about $25 billion in spending in the Queensland economy during 2019 - about $70 million a day.

Industry leaders are still counting the costs, but the annual figure for 2020 will be half of that.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind says it is impossible to describe the impact of COVID-19 without using the words like "catastrophic" and "devastating".

"Some 12 months on from the start of this crisis, our industry is still under severe stress. The mental and financial toll it has taken (on 240,000 employees) is enormous," he says.

The state's $7 billion international tourism industry was non-existent, and at least half of interstate tourism was lost, worth $10 billion a year.

"Some $12 billion will be lost in 2020 for our industry," Mr Gschwind says.

August through to September were the first months which saw the industry turn the corner before "falling off a cliff" with the Brisbane lockdown.

Queenslanders have decided to "get out and get around" visiting the Scenic Rim, Stradbroke Island and the Fraser Coast but big gaps remain.

Coolangatta beach during lockdown. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Coolangatta beach during lockdown. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

HOW OLDER QUEENSLANDERS WERE IMPACTED

Queensland has 800,000 people older than 65, but the vast majority do not live in aged care.

Council on Ageing Queensland chief executive Mark Tucker-Evans says 28,000 people offered "care" services responding to about 5000 residents seeking help.

He said mental health was a major concern with many older people putting off once-in-a-lifetime trips. Those in aged care were restricted in leaving the facility and getting fresh air.

Mr Tucker-Evans called for improved local responses.

"We have seen that in some cases in areas which have had absolutely no cases of COVID or are in danger of it have been locked down," he says.

FULL DIGITAL ACCESS: JUST $5 A MONTH FOR THE FIRST THREE MONTHS

Police screen incoming passengers. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
Police screen incoming passengers. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

VACCINES - AND THE FUTURE

Australian Medical Association chief executive officer Dr Brett Dale believes the hospital system can manage the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine.

He also suggests the Therapeutic Goods Administration is taking a very safe approach to determining the safety and effectiveness of vaccines by not rushing the process.

He said the education program would be important and there may be "enticements" for people to participate.

"Those enticements might be incentives that allow them to travel, for example," Dr Dale says.

Vaccines will be made available to priority groups with "1A" the first, including people at risk on international borders - quarantine workers, flight crews, people in quarantine and frontline workers in health, aged care and disability.

The Coast will be one of several hubs. Children cannot get the vaccine yet because they have not been part of trial testing.

COVID quarantine hotel, Voco Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise. Picture: Jerad Williams
COVID quarantine hotel, Voco Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise. Picture: Jerad Williams

TESTING CENTRES

Southport MP Rob Molhoek raised concerns at a parliamentary hearing from elderly residents about "eight-hour waits and massive queues to have testing done".

Dr Dale said the strategies put in place for testing centres was to reduce risk of exposure.

GPs might see a diabetes patient and they would be at risk of COVID-positive clients arriving for tests, he said.

"There were legitimate reasons for shifting them outside of general practice, but there was no better place to seek advice as to whether you needed to be screened," he said.

 

 

 

paul.weston@news.com.au

 

 

 

 

Originally published as True cost of COVID-19 to the Gold Coast



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