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Queensland's new Chief Health Officer John Gerrard says the state's hospitals are well prepared for a looming COVID-19 outbreak thanks to an "extraordinary" response to the virus.
An award-winning researcher and clinician with more than 30 years' experience, Dr Gerrard will officially start in mid-December after being unveiled as new CHO on Monday by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Dr Gerrard said he had a "deep and concerning responsibility" as CHO, predicting a Queensland COVID-19 outbreak in the next 12 months after borders re-open.
But the current Gold Coast University Hospital infectious diseases director is confident Queensland hospitals will be ready.
"No hospital in the world functions with empty beds and doctors and nurses doing nothing, so large cases will always put a strain on any health service in the world," he said.
"The secret... is to get high vaccination rates before the virus is introduced to Queensland and that is what we are achieving.
"We have been planning for COVID-19 outbreaks since the beginning of last year.
"We are well prepared to deal with the pandemic when it arrives."
Dr Gerrard said it was a "profound honour" to take up the CHO role after what he believed was an unprecedented pandemic response in Queensland.
"It is also a deep and concerning responsibility to take on this role at this time," he said.
"But I am heartened and the responsibility is made lighter because of the action of Queenslanders over the last 24 months.
"We have been able to ...keep the virus out of Queensland for the last two years.
"This is something that has not been achieved anywhere else in the world that I can think of."
Dr Gerrard credited the response to the work of predecessor Dr Jeannette Young and acting CHO Dr Peter Aitken, but urged Queenslanders to maintain momentum and get vaccinated.
"During the course of the next 12 months it is likely the virus will be introduced to Queensland but this needs to be done in a controlled and systematic way," he said.
"We don't know when it will arrive, we won't know how many cases we will see to begin with and we don't know when it will start.
"But we know it will be coming here some time in the next 12 months so it's vital that Queenslanders get vaccinated."
Ms Palaszczuk said Dr Gerrard had played a "crucial" role in the state's pandemic response, designing the Gold Coast University Hospital to manage patients with highly infectious viruses like COVID-19.
He was also the medical specialist lead in international COVID-19 responses aboard the Diamond Princess in Japan in February 2020 and in the Dutch Antilles in early 2021.
"He has seen first hand and treated some of the very first patients that caught COVID in Queensland," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"I think the Gold Coast should be proud that Dr Gerrard has stepped up to take on this really important role - I am absolutely delighted."