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Central West Queensland since 1923
Central West Queensland

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10 August, 2021

Leaders praise public amidst COVID scare

It was found that the flight attendant had caught the virus on a separate plan, and no members of the Longreach public had caught the disease.

By Morgan Burley

Locals waited up to three hours at times to be tested for COVID-19 last Friday. PHOTO: Michael R Williams.

THE Central West dodged a bullet after a COVID-19 scare saw almost 300 people submit themselves for testing this month, thankfully, with no positive cases detected. 

The scare was spurred on by false reports of a COVID-infected flight attendant who crewed flights in and out of Longreach on July 11. 

The woman tested positive for Coronavirus on Thursday, July 22, with contact tracers announcing Longreach as an exposure site – however it was later announced she became infected on July 14, after visiting Longreach. 

Health Service Chief Executive Jane Hancock from the Central West Hospital and Health Service (CWHHS) said 282 people were tested for COVID-19 following the possible exposure – 214 at the drive-through clinic and 68 at other CWHHS facility sites across the Central West. 

“Central West Hospital and Health Service worked closely with Longreach community partners including Longreach Regional Council, Queensland Ambulance Service, Queensland Police Service, Queensland Ambulance Service, Queensland Fire, and Emergency Services, Longreach State Emergency Service to deliver pop-up, drive-through testing clinics at the Showgrounds on Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” she said. 

Longreach Regional Council Mayor Tony Rayner said he was pleased with the response of the public, with over 90 per cent of close contacts tested within the first 24 hours after the alert was raised. 

“I think our community can be proud of its response, for the most part, our residents and visitors did the right thing and came forward for testing,” he said. 

“I chair the Local Disaster Management Group and only a couple of weeks ago we coordinated an exercise, with Central West Hospital and Health Service, in which we had a practice run of setting up a drive-through testing facility at the showgrounds. 

“So when the call came, we were able to whip into action quickly and everyone involved knew what had to be done.” 

Despite rumours that Longreach was in lockdown, the district did not introduce additional restrictions, with weekend events still cleared to run. 

“That decision rests with the individual event organisers and the current advice from health authorities,” Cr Rayner said. 

“At no time did health authorities deem it necessary to impose any restrictions on our community. 

“The only advice was that close contacts and people with symptoms come forward for testing, and that’s what happened. 

“Health authorities assess the risk to any given community based on the most accurate information as it becomes available. 

“I have no doubt that they would have issued revised advice if the risk ever really warranted it.” 

Cr Rayner said the council’s disaster management group would conduct a full debrief with all agencies and personnel to “make sure we capture any learnings for the future”. 

“Our whole disaster management community is prepared for any eventuality, under the guidance of Queensland Health as the lead agency,” he said. 

“Council plays a supporting role locally through the Local Disaster Management Group, and I’m very proud of the leadership our team has shown throughout the COVID response under Local Disaster Coordinator Mitchell Murphy. 

“The best thing our community can do is comply with contact tracing requirements, get tested as soon as they start to feel unwell, and continue to come forward for vaccination in large numbers.” 

Central West Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr David Walker said the recent scare should be a wake-up call to all Central West residents. 

“We have been lucky so far that we have had no local cases of COVID-19 within our health service,’’ he said. 

“But we cannot rely on luck to continue protecting us. Vaccination is the best and only way to protect our communities. 

“While no vaccine is 100 per cent effective, current evidence shows that people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine have a much lower chance of developing more serious symptoms from the virus, compared to those who did not get the vaccine. 

“And remember, I cannot emphasise enough that once you have had a first dose of vaccine, you must not neglect to have your second dose. 

“You need two doses of the same vaccine for maximal effective protection, so please make sure you 

have both – whether that’s two doses of AstraZeneca or two doses of Pfizer.” 

AstraZeneca catch-up clinics will be in Longreach at the Longreach Civic and Cultural Centre on Tuesday, August 5, and Winton at the Winton Hospital on Thursday, August 12. 

Pfizer clinics for first and second doses will be in Longreach at the Longreach Civic and Cultural Centre from Monday, August 2, to Wednesday, August 4. 

Winton will also host the Pfizer clinic today at the council facilities in Vindex St. 

To book your vaccination, call 1800 953 703. 

For more information, visit  

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