North Queensland told to factor COVID-19 into cyclone season prep9th December 2020
“It’s no good excluding people from shelters in case they’ve got COVID only for them to be killed by a cyclone. The risk of a cyclone is the more immediate threat.”
Cairns and the northern region of the state have not had a large amount of cases even at the height of the pandemic, and there is believed to be no community transmission at the moment.
Even so, Dr Gair said they were doing contingency planning for all scenarios, in the event that case numbers rose in the next few months.
“We’ve looked at what we would need to do in the situation as it stands now, what we would need to do if there was limited transmission, and what would we do if there is widespread community transmission,” he said.
“In terms of protecting people from COVID-19 as much as we do normally, it’s just not possible to maintain that level of protection at the same time as you’re trying to protect them against the cyclone. Something has to give.”
To make up for that shortfall, residents in the region are being urged to take COVID into account when they make their annual cyclone season preparations.
In addition to food and water and other essentials, emergency kits should include hand sanitiser and masks, while residents should familiarise themselves with COVID-safe practice and behaviour.
Dr Gair said they had specific arrangements to deal with a situation where people in hotel quarantine in the region needed to be evacuated, and those people would not be taken to general evacuation centres in any scenario.
Cairns has not had a case of community transmission since April, and Dr Gair said if everyone planned ahead, they could keep it that way.
“Far north Queensland has done a great job in the fight against COVID-19 and our case numbers have been very low for some time now,” he said.