Jeannette Young, the chief health officer of Queensland, Australia, told a press conference on Tuesday that unvaccinated elderly people should avoid contact with their grandchildren after a cluster of coronavirus cases was discovered in four local schools.
“If you’re a grandparent of one of these kids, one of these households, and you haven’t been vaccinated, please don’t go anywhere near your grandkids,” Young said, alluding to the greater danger posed to older patients by the coronavirus.
The cluster was first detected at Brisbane’s Indooroopilly High School and has since spread to produce several cases at Iron Side State School, Brisbane Grammar School, and Brisbane Girl’s Grammar School.
Authorities recorded 16 new cases linked to the four schools on Tuesday, including five afflicting family members of students and one infection of a neighbor. The outbreak at the high school is up to 47 known cases in total. Almost 8,000 Queenslanders have been subjected to Australia’s famously strict quarantine protocols in response.
Young said officials have not yet determined the source of the outbreak at Indooroopilly High School, although she believes it is linked to cases in Queensland in late June that heralded the arrival of the Delta variant. She advised local teachers to get vaccinated if possible but warned there might not be enough doses to go around.
Other officials instructed the entire provincial population to lock itself down and avoid leaving their homes except for emergencies. Schools have been shut down and “home learning” programs implemented for at least the rest of this week.
“We know that there are people out there who could have been infected who have no symptoms, so the best way to deal with someone who has no symptoms is that they just stay at home,” Young said.
“That’s why lockdowns work. We know the virus can burn out. Stay at home,” she instructed.
Australian officials seemed stunned when the Delta variant slipped past their isolation requirements for travelers.
“The message this time, for this lockdown, is simple: don’t ask yourself, ‘Can I go out?’ Ask yourself, ‘Should I go out? Is the reason I’m leaving my home so important it is worth risking an extension to the lockdown?’” said Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath.
The system of mandatory 14-day hotel quarantines for inbound travelers, touted as “99.99 percent effective” by Prime Minister Scott Morrisson, has “leaked” dozens of cases, prompting belated recriminations that hotel air conditioning systems might not be very effective at isolating highly contagious diseases. At least one of the original cases in the current panic involves a man believed to have contracted the coronavirus while he was quarantined in Queensland.
Australia’s vaccination program has been one of the slowest among developed nations, particularly in the poorest areas of big cities like Sydney and Melbourne, and in the outback. Younger people in Brisbane have especially low vaccination rates at present.