The Queensland Health Minister says the state is pivoting its health response to meet the evolving threat posed by COVID-19, as hospitals brace for a winter rise in respiratory illnesses.
Minister for Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Services, Shannon Fentiman said Queensland Health will end the COVID-19 traffic light system from today, instead monitoring COVID-19 as part of its broader surveillance of acute respiratory illnesses, like influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
The move is in response to evidence pointing to a decline in COVID-19 waves and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration the illness was no longer a public health emergency.
“This new phase in the way Queensland manages COVID-19 is possible thanks to our strong health response during the peak of the pandemic,” the Minister said.
“While we are discontinuing the traffic light system, it is not the time for complacency. The virus is still out there, as well as influenza and RSV, so we need to take care.
“It’s no secret the arrival of winter places extra demand on Queensland’s hospitals, but they are well prepared for the rise in flu and COVID-19 cases.
“The total number of flu cases this year is almost three times the average for the same period in 2018-2022, so we need to be vigilant.
“The best thing people can do to protect themselves and loved ones against the flu is to get vaccinated.”
She said Queenslanders would still have access to comprehensive COVID-19 resources on the Queensland Government’s website.
Queensland has recorded more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 this year and is currently experiencing a sharp uptick in flu cases.
Almost 4,400 cases were recorded between June 12-18, taking the total of flu cases this year to 32,500.
Queenslanders are being urged to take precautions against influenza, including getting vaccinated, staying home when unwell and maintaining good hand and oral hygiene.
“More Queenslanders are in intensive care with influenza than with COVID-19 and we are very concerned about the recent surge in influenza cases in adults and children,” said Queensland Chief Health Officer, Dr John Gerrard.
“In addition to COVID-19 and Influenza A and B, we are seeing typical winter viruses like rhinovirus, RSV, parainfluenza and adenovirus.
“This new phase in the way we manage COVID-19 signals progress, but it’s crucial that Queenslanders remain aware that respiratory illnesses are still circulating.
“I strongly advise people to protect themselves and others against all acute respiratory illnesses by getting vaccinated for the flu and, if eligible, COVID-19.
“Regular hand washing with soap and water, staying home when unwell, and keeping sick children at home are also crucial steps in preventing the spread.
“In certain cases, individual hospitals or other health providers may still require masks and I would ask that Queenslanders please follow that instruction if requested.”
Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are available from primary care immunisation providers, with several cohorts able to access free vaccines under the National Immunisation Program.
More information on vaccination is available here.