Today marks 86 days since Queensland’s first case of COVID19. This week Queensland had not one, but two, days with zero cases. This is something to really smile about.
Maps of Queensland Cases
As I write this, Queensland has 1,026 cases with six lives sadly lost. The Queensland Government has created a new webpage where you can see the most up-to-date facts and figures health.qld.gov.au/covid-data .
The maps showing cases by “Local Government Area” and “Local Government Area with Source of Infection” are cause for celebration here in Gregory.
With no cure and no vaccine, all we have between us and a health catastrophe is the willingness of each of us to comply with the social distancing and hygiene advice. Queenslanders have displayed their usual practical common-sense and we are seeing the rewards.
How Much Longer?
As I said last time, testing will be key to the lifting of restrictions. As I write, I have just heard the announcement that the restrictions on testing have been lifted. Any Queenslander, across the state, who has COVID19 symptoms can now request a test.
The next step will be testing front-line workers.
There is talk of aiming for “geographical eradication”, not just “flattening the curve”. With zero cases to date, Gregory would have to be a good candidate if the National Cabinet proceeds down that path.
We must go carefully, however. There is a lot we don’t yet know about COVID19 and other countries have eased restrictions, only to get a second wave of infections.
Emerging Strains Increase the Challenge
Additionally, viruses mutate over time and some variants of a virus can be more deadly than others. Australian genetic researchers analysing COVID19 samples have found it has evolved into six genetically-distinct variants in different parts of the world.
This natural evolution of the virus may explain some of the different outcomes across the world.
It may also explain some of the cases where people seem to have caught the virus twice.
This would have implications for the development of an effective vaccine, so we must learn to manage in the meantime.
If you are getting a bit impatient with the restrictions, this is why we have to endure. Keep up that social distance of 1.5 metres. Wash your hands with soap and water at every opportunity and observe the rules on social gatherings and travel restrictions.
It is Working for the Flu, Too.
Last week the State recorded only 11 confirmed cases of the flu compared to 350 cases at the same time last year. Queensland’s Chief Health Officer says the COVID19 restrictions are also lowering the number of flu cases. You are still encouraged to get your flu shot.
I have been told by my federal colleagues that while there is a high demand for flu vaccine, there is no shortage and supplies are flowing through. May is probably the ideal month to be vaccinated, as the effectiveness of the vaccine coincides with the predicted peak of flu season. Ask at your family GP or pharmacist.
COVID19 and the Flu – Natural but Ghastly “Dance Partners”
Many of the people who are especially vulnerable to COVID19 are also vulnerable to the flu.
All children aged from 6 months to 5 years are able to be vaccinated for free. All pregnant women and all people aged over 65 are also able to get free flu shots. All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over six months are also eligible for free flu shots.
Some Surgeries and Treatments Restored
When Australia declared a Human Biosecurity Emergency in response to the corona virus, there was a shortage - in Australia and across the world - of the gowns, caps and masks needed for our doctors, nurses and ambulance workers on the frontline. We also needed to boost the number of ICU beds and access to ventilators. To buy time, the National Cabinet suspended elective surgeries.
With the good outcomes achieved today, the National Cabinet has now lifted the restrictions on the following medical treatments from next Tuesday, April 28:
- IVF- Screening Programs (cancer and other diseases)
- Post-cancer reconstruction procedures (such as breast reconstruction)
- Procedures for children under 18 years of age
- Joint replacements, including knees, hips and shoulders
- Cataracts and eye procedures
- Endoscopy and Colonoscopy procedures
Dentists will move from Level 3 Restrictions to Level 2. This means that, as long as they use PPE and can manage the risk of transmission, they can once again undertake the fitting of dentures and braces, non-high speed fillings and basic fillings.
Physio and Chiro
Queensland Health has also clarified that physiotherapists and chiropractors are exempted from the restrictions covering massage therapists, so they can continue treating injuries.
Queensland Parliament had a strange, one-day sitting on Wednesday to pass COVID19 related legislation. As a result, new tenancy protections are in place, back-dated effective March 29, 2020.
After an absolute outcry, the residential tenancy laws have been improved to give some protection to both landlords and tenants. Both parties will be asked to abide by Queensland Government guidelines. These are to be published and I was hoping to give you a direct link today, but the page is clearly still under construction. However, you should shortly be able to see the guidelines by going to www.rta.qld.gov.au and clicking on the COVID19 link.
Disputes and Conciliation
The arrangement will be overseen by the Queensland Residential Tenancies Authority, which will also conciliate any disputes.
Tenants’ Rights and Eligibility
Tenants will be eligible to request a rent reduction if they can prove they have had a 25 per cent reduction in income as a result of COVID19, or when the cost of their rent accounts for more than 30 per cent of their income.
If tenants refuse physical inspections of the property, they must agree to virtual inspections. However, tenants – especially if there is a household member vulnerable to COVID19 – have the right to refuse physical entry for non-essential reasons, including routine repairs and inspections.
Small Business Tenants
I know some small business tenants have struggled to get their landlords to apply the commercial leasing Code of Practice developed by National Cabinet. You’ll be pleased to hear that Queensland Parliament agreed to the appointment of a Small Business Commissioner until the end of 2020.
The Commissioner will give small businesses a single point of contact for leasing disputes during the COVID19 emergency and in the following recovery period. I will update you with the contact details as soon as the office opens.
Small Business Job Support Loans Closed Off
The QRIDA-administered, Queensland Government Job Support loans have been closed to new applicants. The funding was supposed to be available until September, but over 9,000 applications were received and the $500 million allocated to the fund was exhausted.
QRIDA will continue to process the applications in the order they were received, but some applicants will be left stranded and those who haven’t yet applied will also miss out.
This is very disappointing as the number of applicants in such a short period of time clearly shows the need is genuine. For those who have missed out, I will be advocating strongly for the Queensland Government to top up the funding for this program. There are many small businesses who don’t benefit from the other assistance packages offered as COVID19 relief.
Federal JobKeeper Program Closes April 26
That reminds-me-to-remind-you, the federal government’s JobKeeper program is an employer opt-in program with a deadline. You need to register your interest by this Sunday, April 26, to be eligible. Here is the link https://www.ato.gov.au/general/gen/JobKeeper-payment/?=redirected_JobKeeper
Crucial legal transactions that have been suspended by social distancing orders are now able to take place through the use of video-conferencing.
- the making of legal documents such as wills
- general powers of attorney
- enduring powers of attorney
- advance health directives
- statutory declarations
- deeds and
- the witnessing of many other types of legal documents which normally require face-to-face meetings or a visit or inspection by an authorized person at a particular site.
RACQ Discounts Car Cover
Queensland insurer RACQ is offering $5 million in discounts on motor vehicle insurance policies due to financial hardship. Like the previously announced freeze on premium increases, this will apply to anyone purchasing or renewing a policy before June 30 and is in response to applications from members for financial hardship relief.
State Government Employee Movement into Western Queensland
I am pleased to announce that the State Government has responded to my concerns about the movement of State Government employees from areas with COVID19 cases into western Queensland, where we have no cases. This covers everyone from every government department. A new Movement Protocol has been put in place to ensure that any employee travelling into our COVID19-free zone must have undergone a medical check and received a certificate clearing them before travelling into our area.
Emerald Races Postponed Tomorrow
Races scheduled for Emerald’s Pioneer Park tomorrow have been postponed until next week, May 2, 2020.
This has come about because Queensland Racing has adjusted its racing zones, moving Emerald into the Central Queensland Coastal zone. This ensures movement protection for the Western Zone.
As previously, next week’s races will be run with the course closed to the public and strict social distancing observed by participants and officials.
Schools – You Made It!
I offer my heart-felt congratulations to all our parents, teachers and students on getting through the first week of Term 2. You have survived the transition to home-schooling.
We must hope the job becomes easier after reality served up its usual challenges. Keep going – our children’s education is their future.
The Minister has said that she will review the situation in mid-May and announce any extension by May 22. I will keep you updated.
While individual Aged-Care Homes have made their own protocols in relation to the COVID19 restrictions, both the PM and the Premier have been at pains to emphasise that the restrictions are not intended to see residents confined to their rooms or denied support visits by family and friends.
Queensland has clarified the situation around visiting in the “Aged Care Direction (No. 2)”.
It allows care and support visits to aged care residents as long as the visitor is their only visitor on that particular day or if the person is visiting to provide end of life support.
Please note, after May 1, 2020 all visitors to aged care facilities will require an up to date flu vaccination, if flu vaccination is available to the person.
Tomorrow’s ANZAC Day will be very strange. There will be no Ceremonies of Remembrance, no gun-fire breakfasts and no parades. I have been delighted to see the wonderful decorations going up outside people’s homes.
While it will be different, it will also be quite historic to participate in tomorrow’s “Light Up the Dawn” commemoration.
There’s an App for That!
There is an excellent, free, smart-phone app to help you. I’ve put the links below, or you can go to the App store and search for “Anzac Day 2020”.
When you open the App, you will be prompted to enter your location. You can do this by postcode. You will then be prompted to select your Flag. In my case, Australian.
The App will link you to the ABC’s broadcast of the Australian War Memorial Service at 5.30 am. It will then prompt you to go to your gate or balcony to observe the minute’s silence, with a “virtual” candle, the Last Post and The Ode “Lest We Forget”. The App also contains a link for donations to our veterans.
As I said last week, we have never needed the inspiration of our ANZACs more, especially their endurance, good humour and mateship.
I also pay tribute to all our veterans and to all the Australian men and women serving in uniform, where-ever they may find themselves this ANZAC Day. We thank you for your service.
ANZAC APP LINKS
Thank You – and Keep Up the Good Effort
Thank you for reading and keeping up to date with all the corona virus changes. We will get through this together. We must persevere and help each other look forward to better days.
Kindest regards – and stay safe,
Lachlan Millar, MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.
Federal Government and National Cabinet Measures www.australia.gov.au.
Federal Health Department – Corona Virus Information https://www.health.gov.au/
Queensland Government Public Health Directions https://www.health.qld.gov.au/system-governance/legislation/cho-public-health-directions-under-expanded-public-health-act-powers
Queensland Health Corona Virus Information https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19
Queensland Government Business Assistance www.business.qld.gov.au