‘Plan B’ to protect families of health workers


HEALTH workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic could face isolation from their families for weeks on end to protect their loved ones from the deadly virus.

The Courier-Mail can reveal Queensland Health is hard at work on a plan to potentially hole up its precious personnel in hotel accommodation even as the state recorded its lowest rise in COVID-19 cases in weeks in a promising sign social distancing is working.

It's part of a range of 'Plan B' measures in case the system is overwhelmed, which also includes the possibility of housing low-risk patients in now-empty hotels to free up their beds for those infected by coronavirus.


Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in QLD


News of the plans come as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk warned that "very encouraging" signs that only nine people had tested positive in the past 24 hours did not mean an end to isolation was in sight.

And it came as the state's fifth death - the fourth cruise ship passenger - was recorded last night after a 78-year-old man died at the Prince Charles Hospital and total cases hit 907.

Ms Palaszczuk said some people were still ruining things for all as she foreshadowed tougher measures around backpackers and farmers markets as crowds continued to gather at stalls and on beaches that authorities have threatened to close, as has been done at major NSW beaches like Bondi.

Asked to speak to Queenslanders who wanted to know what the path out of the coronavirus crisis looked like, she said: "You and me both."

Gold Coast beaches are still jam packed, despite COVID-19 restrictions. Picture: Dave Hunt/AAP
Gold Coast beaches are still jam packed, despite COVID-19 restrictions. Picture: Dave Hunt/AAP

"I have said to everyone previously we are looking at six months but as we all know, this is not going to end internationally, nationally or at a state level until there is a vaccine," she said.

"What we need to realise too is that any relaxation of measures may actually increase the number of cases."

Meanwhile, a Queensland Health (QH) spokeswoman said authorities were focused on keeping the health workforce safe.

Asked about Victorian Premier Dan Andrews's $20 million announcement that health workers who test positive or have been exposed to COVID-19 will have free access to hotel rooms so they don't pass the virus to their families, QH didn't rule out doing the same in the future.

"Queensland Health meets regularly with staff and stakeholder representatives so that we can adapt and meet any emerging needs that arise," the spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, farmers markets will be made to stick markers on the ground and enforce crowd sizes or they will be closed, as the Premier declared it was their last chance.

The Northey Street City Farm Organic Markets at Windsor. Picture: Liam Kidston
The Northey Street City Farm Organic Markets at Windsor. Picture: Liam Kidston

As a community petition called for a shut down of Saturday's Jan Powers Farmers Markets in New Farm over its "Spring Break" atmosphere, more photos showed crowds at the Northey Street City Farm Organic Market at Windsor.

Ms Palaszczuk said she had been unimpressed by the weekend scenes.

"Guys, that's not on and if I see that again, they're going to be shut down immediately," she said.

"It is not a chance to go down for an outing, you should only be going down there if you intend to purchase fresh produce … I'm giving my last warning."

It's understood organisers will be spoken to this week about how they can better enforce the rules around people staying 1.5 metres apart so the markets can continue.



The Premier also foreshadowed tougher rules for backpackers after some were found trying to sneak across Queensland's closed borders from NSW aboard buses.

"We are going to be very stringent when it comes to backpackers as well, so there will be further measures announced about that in coming days."

Meanwhile, parliament will likely be recalled next week to legislate a backdated, six-month moratorium on evictions, with measures to deal with commercial tenancies still being considered.

Originally published as 'Plan B' to protect families of health workers