Queensland health authorities have condemned reports of “smallpox parties” organized by groups of unvaccinated residents on the Gold Coast, which has quickly become the epicenter of the state’s Omicron outbreak.
On Monday, another 23 people, enough to fill a separate ward, were admitted to the Gold Coast hospital after contracting Covid-19. Half of the intensive care patients in the region were not vaccinated.
Reports of meetings where people deliberately tried to spread the virus, believing it would boost their immunity, were first reported by the Gold Coast Bulletin.
Queensland Health Director John Gerrard said the idea was “completely ridiculous.”
“The best way to get immunity to this virus is through vaccination, not through the holidays.
“Please, please stop.”
Queensland reported 20,566 new cases on Tuesday, although the total included some tests from private pathologists that would otherwise have been included in Monday’s figures. Since then, a software issue that was delaying the reporting of case numbers has been fixed.
There were now 109,524 active cases in Queensland: 502 patients were in hospital, 27 in ICU and six on ventilators.
One in four hospitalized patients was on the Gold Coast, where vaccination rates were marginally lower than in the rest of Queensland. Six of the 11 patients in the ICU in Gold Coast were not vaccinated.
“The Gold Coast remains a tipping point, yesterday they had an additional 23 admissions to their wards … a typical hospital ward has between 20 and 30 patients,” Gerrard said.
“I think the main reason (for the Gold Coast outbreak) is the number of people traveling there from the interstate.
“You had a lot of raids and a lot of spot fires… just because they tested negative when they crossed, then they tested positive after they arrived.
“The slightly lower vaccination rate … it’s not terrible in the Gold Coast … that contributes and we’ve also heard from the police repeatedly that the wearing of masks is poorer there.”
Parts of the Gold Coast share some similarities with alternative lifestyle communities across the border in northern New South Wales, where vaccination rates are low. There have also been major protests against the lockdown in the city.
As concern grows over the Gold Coast outbreak, city mayor Tom Tate has asked state health authorities to “let it rip”.
in a opinion piece, published by the Gold Coast Bulletin on Monday, Tate said constant rule changes had tested the goodwill of the community.
“Opening the border was always going to see Omicron sweep across the state,” Tate said. “The state claims that it is trying to stop the spread. Why not let it spread quickly so that we peak earlier and our economy stop receiving life support faster? “
Gerrard, who was not directly asked about Tate’s comments, made clear that hospitals had plans to deal with the next spike, which is expected in early February. Health workers were being called back from vacation to help the hospital system cope.
“We had 502 people in the Queensland hospital wards at 7pm last night,” Gerrard said. “That’s more than 419 the day before.
“That is increasing quite rapidly and that is to be expected.
“Those numbers will be quite significant in the next few weeks through early February and hopefully the mathematical model is correct, it will start to decline after that.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism