Queensland’s chief health officer has warned of the “gross underestimate” of the state’s true number of Covid cases after more than 10,000 new infections were confirmed.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said 10,332 new cases – the largest daily number since borders opened in December – had been recorded on Thursday.
She said a Gold Coast man in his 80s who died last month had been confirmed as a Covid-19 death.
The man is the 12th person in Queensland to die from the disease since the beginning of the pandemic.
There are 284 people in hospital with the virus and 12 in intensive care.
Given there were 34,832 tests carried out in the last reporting period, the rate of positivity is now almost 30 per cent.
But chief health officer John Gerard said that is likely to be higher given the number of cases in the community not reported to the health department.
Dr Gerard told reporters the new 10,332 cases was likely a “gross underestimate” of the true number.
“We know many patients are doing their own rapid antigen testing at home, some patients will have very mild illness and won’t even recognise they have Covid-19, and some patients won’t be able to access testing unfortunately,” he said.
Dr Gerard said the small number of patients in intensive care was some cause for “cautious” hope there was no major escalation in admissions yet.
“We would have expected (this) previously had this been an epidemic last year prior to vaccination or with the Delta strain,” he said.
“We know at least 80 per cent of the virus we’re seeing in Queensland is Omicron.
“The bulk of the patients, many thousands of patients that we have been seeing so far in Australia and Queensland have been young people mostly in their 20s and early 30s because this is the most socially mobile group.
“We’ve seen major outbreaks in that group and this is the fittest, healthiest group in our adult population.”
Dr Gerard warned the number of people in hospital wards with Covid-19 was increasing “steadily”, but the number was expected to increase “very substantially” within the coming weeks.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said she wanted to reinforce that people who received a positive rapid antigen test no longer needed a PCR test to verify their diagnosis in a bid to reduce queues at testing centres.
Queensland is working on a way for people who test positive on rapid antigen tests to log their data.
Ms D’Ath said she would like to see a national approach.
“We are looking at all options for whatever is going to be quickest and easiest for people to get their information into a system,” she said.
“Globally, they’re still tracking numbers, and we need to find a way to manage this – but right now we need to create a bit of breathing space on our testing clinics so our pathologists can prioritise those who really need those PCR tests.
“I remind people, the only people coming forward to get tested right now at our clinics should be people who have symptoms, who have not been able to get access to a rapid antigen test or people who are requiring a day-six test to a household close contact who again have not been able to get access to a rapid antigen test.
“All other people should be staying away from these lines at the current time, so we can ensure that those who most need these tests are getting these tests as quickly as possible.”
Dr Gerard called on Queenslanders to keep emergency departments free unless their Covid symptoms become severe.
“The biggest problems we’re having in the hospitals and emergency departments at the moment is relatively well people turning up to the emergency department and causing problems,” he said.
“For the vast majority of young healthy people who aren’t in any way immunocompromised, this is for the most part a mild illness.
“I would suggest you only seek medical advice or go to a doctor if you become breathless, have significant chest pain or getting significant dizziness or fainting.
“Most people start to improve within two or three days. If it goes beyond that, I would seek medical advice.”