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Qld posts 24 local circumstances, braces for more

Queensland has recorded 24 new local COVID-19 cases, with the state refusing to blink at the spike in infections after reopening its border.

On top of the locally acquired cases, a further five were detected among interstate travellers and two from overseas arrivals who tested positive in hotel quarantine in Cairns.

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said some of the 31 total cases were staff or visitors in health settings, including Brisbane’s North West Private and Princess Alexandra hospitals, an aged care facility in Mackay and at least one GP in Brisbane.

He moved to reassure the community it wasn’t unexpected, and is likely to frequently occur in coming weeks and months after the state opened to fully vaccinated travellers from NSW and Victoria on Monday.

“There are thousands of healthcare workers in Queensland, so it is inevitable that some of them will get infected,” he told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday.

“All of our healthcare workers are vaccinated and all of our healthcare workers wear masks when in the clinical environment.

“The risk to patients is minimised, but it does emphasise the need for all of us to get vaccinated.”

It is unknown whether any of the latest cases have the Omicron variant, with genomic sequencing expected to take one to two days, but 12 cases of the new strain have now been confirmed in Queensland.

“We expect the Omicron strain to become dominant in Queensland in the coming weeks,” Dr Gerrard said.

The jump in cases has not spooked Queensland health authorities into considering slamming the border shut again.

“It changes nothing at all,” Dr Gerrard said.

“We’re expecting to see thousands of cases in NSW and across Australia, and ultimately Queensland. We have no plans, no intentions of closing any borders.”

But the state government has mandated face masks in essential retailers like supermarkets, on public transport including ride-share vehicles and in hospitals.

The mandate kicked in at 1am on Saturday and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it would be revised when 90 per cent of Queenslanders are fully vaccinated in early January.

It follows a separate vaccine mandate for venues such as cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, stadiums and theme parks coming into effect from 5am on Friday.

So far, Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the force had dealt with 22 call-outs for reports about individuals and 36 for businesses ignoring the mandate.

“It has been disappointing to hear there have been a couple of instances where people have abused staff,” she said

“That was at a business in Strathpine but also a person, quite belligerently, trying to get into one of the hospital’s ICU units who was not a patient.”

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