Queensland has announced a major change to its Covid rules as the virus caseload surges above 1000 for the first time.
Queensland has moved to ease the burden on its Covid testing system by scrapping the need for new arrivals to take a day five PCR test.
The state had flagged the change was likely just 24 hours ago, with chief health officer John Gerrard since advising the government that less than one in 10 people testing on day five were returning a positive result.
The rule change came as the state’s daily caseload hit a new record 1158 on Tuesday.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said people who had arrived in Queensland and were waiting in line for day five PCR tests could leave immediately.
People applying to cross the border still need a negative PCR test to do so.
Queensland is also looking at replacing those with rapid antigen tests from January 1 but first wants to ensure it has adequate supply of the at-home testing kits.
Strangely, Ms D’Ath on Tuesday still advised people applying for a Queensland border pass to indicate they were willing to complete a day five PCR test – even though they won’t need to perform one – while the system is updated.
Ms D’Ath also swatted away suggestions from NSW that Queensland’s stringent policies had been obstructive and a reason people in both states were being forced to wait hours in lines for tests and even longer for results.
Ms D’Ath said she did not agree with suggestions Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had been “recalcitrant” – as had been suggested by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard – and stressed that Queensland’s reopening plan had always been clear.
“We have said, first and foremost, we are about keeping Queensland safe … and we are doing this in a safe and responsible way via our plan that has been out there for many weeks now for everyone to know what is required to come into Queensland,” Ms D’Ath said.
“We‘ve also said that rules will change when we hit 90 per cent double dose.
“Anything that NSW and Victoria can also do to speak to the commonwealth and make sure that the (rapid antigen tests) are also available, then we should all be working collaboratively together to achieve that.”
Currently, 86.1 per cent of Queenslanders are fully vaccinated.
Queensland’s case figures on Tuesday were a jump from the previous high of 784 set on Monday, with 4479 people in the state infected with the virus.
Despite the daily rise, there are just six people in Queensland hospitals specifically needing treatment for Covid, a slight increase from four people 24 hours ago.
No one is in intensive care with Covid or on ventilation.
People still need to return a negative PCR test before they enter Queensland.
Dr Gerrard said the move would help Queensland better focus its health resources.
There were 1479 new cases reported in Queensland over the Christmas weekend – including 765 on Christmas Day.