'Brace ourselves' for COVID-19 spike

Many frontline health and aged care workers across Australia are still waiting for vaccinations.
Many frontline health and aged care workers across Australia are still waiting for vaccinations.

Queensland is battling two clusters of COVID-19 that link back to health workers and NSW is on alert as the latest outbreak outpaces Australia's vaccination rollout.

The state has recorded 10 new COVID-19 cases, including eight in the community, while NSW remains at zero new cases despite local exposure to the coronavirus at a party in Byron Bay.

One cluster has formed around a doctor at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital and a second cluster is linked to a nurse at the same hospital on leave who was due to get the jab this week.

"The next few days is critical for our contact tracers to get on top of this," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday.

"Please go and get tested. We need to eliminate any unlinked community transmission out there."

Unvaccinated hospital staff won't be able to treat COVID-19 patients from Wednesday under a new protocol.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said they had planned on getting 20,000 vaccinated by mid-April and achieved that target last week. Another 6000 were vaccinated on Monday as vaccine deliveries to the state increased.

But she warned vaccinations haven't yet reached "critical mass" in Queensland or the rest of Australia.

"The fact is we're not fully vaccinated. COVID is real, it's here and it's on our doorstep."

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned she expected cases to cross the border as infected people had been to a number of venues in her state, including Byron Bay.

"We need to brace ourselves," Ms Berejiklian told reporters.

Australia's Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan said Queensland Health was working hard to get the jab to healthcare workers as quickly as possible.

She conceded the task could take several more weeks.

The Morrison government is aiming for everyone who wants to have the vaccine to receive their first dose by October, far short of initial targets of four million by early April.

Vulnerable people in aged care are another concern across Australia but Professor McMillan said supply had now increased and 89,000 had been vaccinated.

"There is a large population of aged care residents," she said.

"We'll continue to see more and more done in the coming weeks, particularly now that we've got the domestic supply as well of the vaccine rollout both to aged care residents and aged care staff."

More than 541,000 Australians have received their first COVID-19 vaccines, including 259,000 in the past week.

Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, the ACT and Northern Territory have moved in a variety of ways to restrict or outright ban incoming travel from Brisbane, or the state, over the growing cluster.

The NSW border remains open, although Ms Berejiklian has asked residents eyeing a trip north over Easter to change their plans.

It's also a double blow for many thousands of non-essential hospitality and tourism companies ordered to close just a day after the federal government's JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme ended.

"It does make you wonder when the government says that we're 'not in a race' for vaccination," Labor MP Andrew Leigh said.

"It absolutely ought to be treated as a race. The government ought to be sprinting."

He says Australia remains about 90th in the world in vaccine rollouts per capita and a third of Queensland businesses are close to hitting the wall.

Australian Associated Press