Queensland has flagged a major change to its Covid testing regime is likely to ease pressure on its buckling system.

Queensland says it is considering switching to the faster rapid-antigen test as a mandatory day five procedure for interstate arrivals, as the state’s testing capacity buckles under huge demand.

Much like other areas of the country, Queensland residents and holiday-makers face hours in lines for Covid testing – and even longer for their results – with many concerned the state’s stringent border arrival rules are exacerbating the bottleneck.

Currently, visitors to Queensland must get a more time-consuming PCR test on day five of their arrival, having already been required to return a negative PCR test in the three days before they crossed the border to the Sunshine State.

In order to avoid clogging up the system unnecessarily – especially when hundreds of Queensland health staff are in quarantine – Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed these rules were under review.

The day five switch from PCR to the quicker, less accurate rapid antigen testing could be confirmed within the next 24 to 48 hours, she said on Monday.

Ms Palaszczuk nonetheless defended the state’s border entry requirements, saying “no-one” could have predicted a surge of 400,000 visitors and returnees in the space of two weeks.

That’s despite a warning 15 days ago from Queensland Police that up to 60,000 vehicles a day could be crossing the border.

“We could see up to 60,000 vehicles (crossing into Queensland) per day,” Deputy Police commissioner Steve Gollschewski said on December 12 before the borders reopened.

“The pandemic response has been by far the largest and most sustained major operation in QPS history but the anticipated numbers (of people) we will have to deal with when the border reopens will be significant.”.

Ms Palaszczuk was nonetheless confident the state’s health system could handle the influx in visitors and case numbers, which rose to a record 784 on Monday.

There are only four people in Queensland hospitals needing treatment for Covid.

That’s down from seven Covid hospitalisations on Sunday, a trend chief health officer Dr John Gerrard credited to improved vaccination levels.

“It is quite striking,” Dr Gerrard told media on Monday morning.

Just one man, an 85 year old with other complications, is severely unwell with the virus in Queensland. No-one is in intensive care or on a ventilator.

There are 900 people with the virus in home care.

Ms Palaszczuk also announced on Monday Queensland parents can now book Covid-19 vaccinations for their 5 to 11-year-olds, with jabs for this age group available from January 10.

“This was an issue I raised many months ago, and at the time I was shouted down, but this is really important now because we know this pandemic can have impacts on the unvaccinated and mild symptoms in children but we do want to make sure that our children are protected,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

Monday’s figures come as frustrations bubble over huge testing lines at hospitals and private clinics and lengthy waits for PCR test results.

The Courier Mail on Monday reported some residents had been waiting more than 100 hours for results, with a number of smaller testing clinics at a reduced capacity during the festive season.

Dr Gerrard said Queensland was not unique in having lengthy queues for tests.

“Look at the news reports from around the world. There are queues for testing on every corner of the United States Europe, United Kingdom,” Dr Gerrard said.

“We’re not unique but on top of that, we have the people coming from interstate visiting Queensland.”

There were 1479 new cases reported over the Christmas weekend – including 765 on Christmas Day.

Dr Gerrard also announced 72 health workers had come down with the virus and 350 were quarantining.

He mentioned that Queensland was looking to NSW for guidance on how to handle the quarantining of health staff, and flagged changes could be on the way.

“These guidelines are continuously changing… the national guidelines will be changed soon,” Dr Gerrard said.

“We are moving towards more of the New South Wales model.”

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