COVID risk just as high as it ever was

·3-min read

Australia remains at as high risk of coronavirus as it was at the start of the pandemic, the nation's chief medical officer has warned.

Professor Paul Kelly's comment came as Queensland is battling two clusters of COVID-19 that link back to health workers and NSW is on alert as the latest outbreak outpaces Australia's vaccination rollout.

The Greater Brisbane area was declared a national COVID-19 hotspot on Tuesday, allowing federal support to flow.

Most states and territories have responded with targeted and temporary restrictions on Greater Brisbane, but Western Australia has closed its border to all of Queensland.

Queensland has recorded 10 new COVID-19 cases, including eight in the community, while NSW remains at zero new cases despite local exposure to the coronavirus at a party in Byron Bay.

One cluster has formed around a doctor at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital, and a second cluster is linked to a nurse at the same hospital on leave who was due to get the jab this week.

"The next few days is critical for our contact tracers to get on top of this," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday.

"Please go and get tested. We need to eliminate any unlinked community transmission out there."

Prof Kelly said it was important to understand the virus was circulating in the Greater Brisbane area "at least".

While 597,523 vaccinations had now been delivered, including almost 56,000 on Monday, there was still a high risk of outbreaks and serious illness.

"At the moment we are at as high a risk as we've been since the beginning of the pandemic," Prof Kelly told reporters in Canberra.

"We know as we mostly open and there are very few restrictions on our movement ... outbreaks can spread quickly, and so that's why that very strong public health response is absolutely crucial at the moment.

"The more vaccine that gets out there, the more people that are protected, that will decrease the outbreaks in the spread over the coming months."

Prof Kelly said all efforts were being made to get vaccines out the door "as quickly as we can", as he urged states not to stockpile Pfizer because the Commonwealth had enough to cover the required second doses.

He said wastage of doses was being monitored but remained small.

Those travelling over the Easter period should take note of their state and territory health department advice including what to do on return, he said.

A national cabinet meeting next month will consider ways to better unify the states' responses to outbreaks, which will also be helped by the vaccine rollout.

The Queensland premier has raised the prospect the Greater Brisbane lockdown could be extended past 5pm on Thursday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned she expected cases to cross the border as infected people had been to a number of venues in her state, including Byron Bay.

"We need to brace ourselves," Ms Berejiklian told reporters.

There were no new cases in NSW on Tuesday but it's believed a NSW resident who was among a group that attended a hen's party at Byron Bay on the weekend is now in Queensland and infected with the highly contagious UK variant.

Byron Bay mayor Simon Richardson says anyone who was in the beach town last weekend should get tested if they feel unwell.

South Australia will push ahead with the easing of some of its COVID-19 restrictions despite the growing virus outbreak in Queensland.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner remains in COVID-19 self-isolation after coming into contact with family members visiting from Queensland and developing cold-like symptoms.