Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has cancelled Schoolies for the first time ever as the state recorded three new coronavirus cases on Friday.
All three new cases have been linked to the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre and corrections training academy at Wacol, in the city’s south-west, with two living on the Gold Coast and one at Forest Lake in Brisbane.
The small outbreak has prompted the premier to introduce strict new limits on people living in the Gold Coast in an effort to stop any further infections.
But in the biggest blow to the state so far, Ms Palaszczuk has announced the cancellation of Schoolies for the first time since the 1970s.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has cancelled Schoolies in Queensland as the state recorded three new coronavirus cases on Friday (Schoolies 2019 pictured)
In the biggest blow to the state so far, Ms Palaszczuk has announced the cancellation of Schoolies for the first time since the 1970s (Schoolies 2019 pictured)
Ms Palaszczuk said the chief health officer and director-general of education will be writing to every school in the state to inform them and ensure students understand the rules
The cancellation of the major end-of-high-school celebrations come as the chief health officer designated mass gatherings over several days a ‘high risk event’.
‘It poses a high risk,’ the premier said on Friday.
‘High risk, not only the people who attend, all the young people, but also all the people they come in contact with, and of course their families and their friends and their grandparents.’
‘So, we’ve had to take that very tough decision. So there will be, unfortunately, no concerts, no organised events, because there can be no mass gatherings.’
Health Minister Steven Miles confirmed the new infections were the first confirmed cases of community transmission on the Gold Coast.
Ms Palaszczuk said the chief health officer and director-general of education will be writing to every school in the state to inform them and ensure students understand the rules.
The premier said students can still book end-of-school holidays with their friends but it should be a quieter celebration.
‘Just as any other person can go along and book accommodation, people are welcome to continue to do that, in those small groups, right across Queensland,’ she said.
‘There is nothing wrong with small groups of people finishing school, booking somewhere close to where they live as well.’
Ms Palaszczuk is urging people to celebrate their achievement by holidaying in Queensland and supporting local businesses and tourism operators.
‘It’s a tough year for everyone. And hopefully, hopefully, things will get better by the end of next year, and we can have a double celebration.’
The cancellation of the major end-of-high-school celebrations come as all mass gatherings are still banned in Queensland (Schoolies on Surfers Paradise beach in 2019)
School leavers will be forced to stay home this year instead of celebrating the end of high school on the Gold Coast (Schoolies 2019 pictured)
‘But we’re in a world pandemic, and I just hope everyone understands that.’
Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said cancelling Schoolies was ‘a really tough decision’ as the current Year 12 group has had a ‘really difficult year’.
‘This is a rite of passage. Your last year of school is such an important year… and so much of it has had to change for this group,’ Dr Young said.
‘But look, I think this group is one of the most resilient, innovative groups, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they will put in place instead of that traditional mass gatherings on the beaches and so forth.’
Schoolies week first began on the Gold Coast in the late 1970s in the weeks following final exams with the Broadbeach Hotel as the main meeting place.
Events began to be organised in 1980 when the Gold Coast started attracting students from all over the country to celebrate.
Schoolies week first began on the Gold Coast in the late 1970s in the weeks following final exams with the Broadbeach Hotel as the main meeting place
Surfers Paradise is this year expected to be deserted as Schoolies has been cancelled due to the coronavirus
Dr Young also noted that the students will not be able to have a gap year and will be stuck at home for Christmas, New Year and next year.
Surfers Paradise maintains its status as the largest single venue for the celebration, with tens of thousands of graduated students flocking there each year.
‘I expect to see that the celebrations will continue over a longer period of time, and we’re working with the accommodation providers to see how they may be able to facilitate that, see they’ll be celebrating in smaller groups, celebrating with their immediate friendship cohorts, of groups of 10 coming together, to celebrate,’ she said.
‘So there will be still be celebrations, but they’ll just be completely different.’
Ms Palaszczuk announced that from 8pm on Saturday, the number of visitors at a home is restricted to ten people and outside gatherings on the Gold Coast are also limited to ten.
Two of the three new cases have been linked to the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre at Wacol (pictured), in the city’s south-west, while another was from Forest Lake on the Gold Coast
The new cases take the number of active cases in the state to 20, from 21,653 tests done in the past 24 hours (A drive through testing facility in Brisbane pictured)
Gatherings in residences, including holiday units, will also be limited to no more than ten people across the state from November 21 to December 11 – the designated Schoolies time.
Restrictions on visitors to aged care facilities, hospitals and disability facilities have also been extended to the Gold Coast.
NEW QUEENSLAND RESTRICTIONS
The current restrictions in place across the Greater Brisbane area are extending to the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Indoor and outdoor gatherings are limited to ten people.
Aged care facilities will go into lockdown.
Hospitals on the Gold Coast will be required to increase the use of personal protective equipment.
‘We have to take this cautionary approach, I think everyone would agree, we acted very swiftly when it came to those earlier cases with the Brisbane youth detention centre and we know people travel a lot from the Gold Coast to Brisbane, and it makes sense to extend that,’ she said.
Dr Young said the ten-person limit is only for unplanned and impromptu events – but weddings and other events with a Covid-safe plan in place can still go ahead.
‘Wherever we’ve got Covid-safe plans, that includes for weddings and funerals for restaurants, pubs, clubs, nightclubs, where there’s a Covid-safe plan, those arrangements can continue,’ she said.
Two of the new cases live at Pimpama on the Gold Coast and the other was from Forest Lake in Brisbane.
Both cases from the Gold Coast are recruits – a 33-year-old woman and 37-year-old man who carpool together.
The third new case, a 33-year-old man, attended a course at the academy.
The cases at the correctional services academy were detected after a group of recruits and staff were tested following a positive test result in a trainer.
The new cases take the number of active cases in the state to 20, from 21,653 tests done in the past 24 hours.
The number of cases linked to the detention centre cluster is now 15.