Queensland has recorded 2266 new cases of Covid-19 as a statewide mask mandate is introduced, requiring residents to wear face covers in all indoor settings
Chief health officer Dr John Gerrard made the order for masks to be worn at all indoor settings except homes and workplaces as case numbers continue to surge.
While Saturday’s new infections are lower than Friday’s record of 3118, deputy premier Steven Miles revealed a change to how the state will be reporting numbers.
Queensland Health will now be reporting figures from a 24 hour period to 7pm, meaning Saturday’s numbers are from a 12-hour period from 7am to 7pm on December 31.
“Even though the number is lower, it does represent a continuing trend, a continuing upward trend,” Mr Miles told reporters.
It brings Queensland’s total number of cases to 16,125 including 13,959 active cases.
There were more than 34,000 tests conducted in the state on Friday.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said masks have been proven to slow the spread of the virus and protect the vulnerable.
“Masks are a tried and true method to slow the spread of Covid,” she said in a statement.
“Even though cases were expected it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do all we can to slow them down.
“We said there would be a time when masks return. That time is now.”
Masks are already required in supermarkets, shops, public transport, rideshare, airports, on planes, cinemas and theatres.
From 1am Sunday they will also be required in workplaces, pubs, clubs, cafes, indoor stadiums, sport arenas, libraries, hairdressers, nail salons, and at waiting rooms at medical centres.
Employers are also being urged to return to work-from-home arrangements where possible.
While more than 86 per cent of the state is fully vaccinated, all measures will be reviewed by Dr Gerrard when the state hits the 90 per cent double vaccination target.
There are currently 80 people in hospital in Queensland, one of which is in the intensive care unit.
“He is improving, but we are likely to see more admissions to intensive care over the next 24 hour period,” Dr Gerrard said.
Dr Gerrard said masks are critical in battling the transmission of Covid-19.
“We already have quite a significant mask mandate,” he told reporters.
“If you’re indoors, if in doubt, wear a mask.”
He said there was no particular reason for the new mandate other than feeling it was “time to move forward and maximise the rules”.
“It’s one of the critical measures and it protects you and other people,” Dr Gerrard said.
The new rules come as the state is warned of thousands more cases as travel restrictions are relaxed.
Dr Gerrard on Friday warned of a major spike in cases as relaxed rules in regards to travel testing restrictions come into effect from Saturday.
Travellers with a negative result from either a PCR test or a Rapid Antigen Test will be given the greet light to cross the border from New Year’s Day.
“The chief health officer is satisfied that a negative result using a Rapid Antigen Test is sufficient for interstate arrivals,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced earlier this week.
Travellers still need to complete a border declaration saying they have tested negative, with anyone caught making false claims facing heavy fines if caught.
Mr Gerrard made the warnings ahead of the relaxed restrictions as well as the move by national cabinet to change the definition of a close contact.
“I’m talking to my colleagues in hospitals regularly and I can say it is likely in the coming days that there will be intensive care admissions … there definitely are sick patients in hospital,” he said.
“We’re not going to be talking about 8000 cases in a few weeks, we’re going to be talking about tens of thousands of cases and that’s what a pandemic is about – very large numbers of cases.”
However, Dr Gerrard also said the surge was happening at a relatively optimal time due to warm summer weather and more than 86 per cent of the state being fully vaccinated.
“This is the time to be having a pandemic,” he said.
“If we are to experience this pandemic, in January is probably the best time because it’s warm and we know that the virus spreads more easily in the cooler months.”