Supplied  Coronavirus strains world map. Picture:
Supplied Coronavirus strains world map. Picture:

REVEALED: Where most of city's COVID-19 cases originated from

MOST of the COVID-19 cases that have been identified in the Far North have originated from people travelling from France and the US.

Public health officials have revealed that 23 of the 32 confirmed coronavirus cases that have been recorded in the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service area since March 17 are from travellers who arrived in the region from overseas, or people who had direct contact with a confirmed case who had travelled overseas.

Director of Tropical Public Health, Cairns Dr Richard Gair. Picture: Josh Woning.
Director of Tropical Public Health, Cairns Dr Richard Gair. Picture: Josh Woning.

While there has been a public perception that Chinese visitors - where the pandemic originated - brought the virus into the region, Cairns Tropical Public Health Unit director Richard Gair said that was far from the truth of the matter.

Dr Gair said he was not aware of any local confirmed cases having picked up the virus from Asian countries.

"Nearly all of them are from the USA or France," he said.

The US has the highest death toll in the world from coronavirus, with the number of deaths due to the disease topping 30,000 this week.

France has recorded 17,167 COVID-19 deaths, while Australia as of yesterday had recorded only 63.

In Cairns, the coronavirus infection tally has remained at 32 cases all week, without any local deaths.

Dr Gair said a majority of confirmed infections had been recorded in people residing within 10km of Cairns CBD.

"We've had three distinct instances of limited local transmission, and I think we need to wait a little bit longer to see what that means," he said.

One of the three local transmission incidents had been traced to a wrestling match that occurred at the Edmonton PCYC on March 14, where three people confirmed with the virus attended.

Dr Gair said due to the challenging nature of the virus, it was difficult to know how much transmission was occurring within a community.

"A lot of transmission is occurring without people knowing it," he said.

"It's not like measles, for example, where you're going to find out about most of the cases, because most cases will develop an identifiable illness.

"But with this, 80 per cent will have mild symptoms. Some people will be asymptomatic.

"It's difficult to know how much transmission is going on.

"The only way to be sure, is with testing for this disease."

According to Queensland Health 777,727 people have been tested for COVID-19 statewide.

The department has not yet broken down the figures for individual Hospital and Health Service regions.

A person will generally be tested: if they have a fever, or history of fever; acute respiratory symptoms; if they have been in close contact or a household contact of a confirmed case; if they had been overseas, including on a cruise.




IT has taken a bit of detective work to control the spread of COVID-19 in the Far North, and a lot of phone calls.

The Cairns-based Tropical Public Health Unit has about 30 people, in three separate teams, working to trace individual cases of coronavirus in the region.

Unit director Dr Richard Gair said so far, not every member of these teams had been needed for contact tracing, due to low incidence of community transmission.

He said once a person tested positive for COVID-19, a lot of work went into trying to figure out who that person had been in direct contact with during the 14-day incubation period for the virus, ranging from immediate family and housemates, through to anyone an infected person had a prolonged conversation with on the street.

Anyone suspected to be at risk of being infected with the disease could be issued a quarantine notice, making it a legal requirement for them to self-isolate immediately.

"If we're not able to get hold of those people … we may contact Queensland Police Service who may then look for them," he said.

"That hasn't happened, as far as I'm aware, in Cairns."

Originally published as REVEALED: Where most of Cairns' COVID-19 cases originated from