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Qld urged to prepare for third virus wave

Queenslanders are being urged to “prepare now” for a third COVID-19 wave after hospital patient numbers more than doubled in a month.

Authorities recorded another four deaths and 5878 new cases on Tuesday, taking active cases in the state to more than 39,200.

The number of people being treated for COVID-19 in the state’s hospitals is now 705 and another 18 are in intensive care, with patient numbers surging 140 per cent since June.

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard says hospitalisations are rising because the more virulent BA4 and BA4 subvariants are “dominant in Queensland.”

“The current wave is currently projected, based on our most recent modelling, to get worse until at least until the end of July or early August when it will peak or even later than that,” he said on Wednesday.

The chief health officer said the BA4 and BA5 subvariants can evade both natural and vaccine immunity, so the third wave will likely be bigger than the state’s largest surge in January.

He said the COVID-19 peak coming at the same time an Influenza-A outbreak, which has hospitalised 105 people, will put intense pressure on the health system.

More than 2000 health workers are isolating or quarantining with COVID-19 more than 100 are off work with the flu.

“We have never experienced anything like this,” Dr Gerrard said.

“To have such a large number of beds occupied in a pandemic on top of influenza, this has not happened in my lifetime.

“The hospitals will cope, they will know what to do, but there will be pressure on them. There’s no way around this.”

Queensland has recorded 1278 COVID-19 deaths this year after just seven deaths over the previous two years.

Dr Gerrard urged people who haven’t had a booster vaccine to get one, particularly a fourth jab for people over the age of 65 as they’re more likely to be hospitalised.

Dr Gerrard said it was “very disturbing” that only half of those over 65 have had a second booster.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath says the pressures this current wave is putting on public hospitals is leaving little to no beds available for planned care.

She said around 1200 planned beds are normally available on any given day, but 705 are occupied by people with COVID-19 and 500 are occupied by long-stay patients.

“That’s almost all of our planned care beds being taken up by two things that are outside of our control,” Ms D’Ath said.

The chief health officer said older Queenslanders with medical conditions should check whether they’re eligible for medications to treat COVID-19.

Dr Gerrard ruled out ordering mask mandates to flatten the curve, but he urged older Queenslanders and immunocompromised people to consider wearing a mask in crowded public places.

“I do not believe we’ll be heading back towards mask mandates,” he said.

“These waves are likely to continue off and on every few months for some time to come, it could be years, and if we keep implementing legal mandates every three months and then withdrawing them. I think that will be just divisive, and it’s not helpful and I think people will not follow them.”

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