The Covid tide continues to rise in Queensland with 24 local cases being reported on Saturday.
The new figures – which are made up of 31 cases when including international arrivals – continues an uptick in case numbers since the state dropped its hard border six days ago.
Five new cases are linked to interstate travel, one was a mystery case in the community, eight are connected to known cases, and 15 cases are under investigation. The cases are scattered across the state.
There are now 12 cases in Queensland with the new Omicron strain.
“We expect the Omicron variant to become dominant in Queensland in the coming weeks,” Chief health officer John Gerrard said.
He said no cases currently in Queensland hospitals were seriously unwell.
“You must assume that Covid is everywhere here in Queensland, everywhere,” Dr Gerrard told journalists.
“It could be on this street. It could even be among you here now. You may not know it. It is spreading throughout Queensland.”
As of Saturday morning – the first day of the state’s new mask mandate – more than 135,000 border passes had been issued for fully-vaccinated visitors and returnees to the Sunshine State.
This includes a jump of 36,000 border passes overnight.
Queensland turned back 269 cars and 12 heavy vehicles, while 101 people from hot spots were put into quarantine until their PCR tests come back.
“What we‘re finding … (is) that some of those are just not getting their PCR test results in time,” Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said.
Health authorities have accepted that many people coming into the state be unwittingly carrying the virus, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has ruled out any lockdowns over the Christmas period.
Dr Gerrard has also said he was not considering shutting out Sydney or other places with high case numbers.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Carroll said police had received a few isolated reports of businesses copping abuse when enforcing new vaccine mandates, although she was mostly pleased with the public’s behaviour so far.
There was one incident where a man was “quite belligerent” in attempting to access the ICU unit of a hospital he was not a patient of.
She also said a number of business that had threatened to flout the new vaccine mandate rules had backed down after being spoken to by Queensland Health.
“Many of those businesses have changed their attitudes and we’ve given them a little bit of latitude,” Commissioner Carroll said.
“If over the next 24 hours for the next couple of days … if they haven’t obviously complied, they will be issued with hefty fines and I am talking about fines of $6,800 and above.”
The surge in Queensland cases may have been expected but it has triggered the reintroduction of a mandate for face masks over the Christmas period.
Ms Palaszczuk on Friday said the state would surely start to see more cases as it opened its border to the rest of the country.
“What we are seeing in NSW is a dramatic escalation in cases and we know that families are uniting during this time over Christmas and New Year,” she told reporters on Friday.
“So everyone, time to bring these (masks) out over the Christmas and New Year period and we will revise this at 90 per cent (vaccination rate).
“This is a small price to pay for your freedoms. We are asking you to do this to slow the spread of the virus.”
Masks are required in all retail, shopping centres and public transport.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the mask mandate would be reviewed when the state hit 90 per cent of eligible people fully vaccinated, predicted to occur in mid-January.
Meanwhile, unvaccinated people banned from entering pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes, and indoor entertainment venues such as nightclubs and cinemas.
Sports stadiums, theme parks, festivals, and state government-owned galleries, museums or libraries are also among the venues that are allowed to refuse entry if a patron is not double-dosed.
The tough new measures – announced last month – were tipped to trigger a spike in abuse from patrons during an already hectic time of year, exacerbated by rolling staff shortages and an influx of visitors after the opening of borders.
A protest against the Covid measures is scheduled to occur in the West End and South Brisbane area from 3pm.
Businesses and members of the public are advised there may be traffic delays in the area as a result and should plan their trips accordingly