About 4 million Queenslanders contracted COVID-19 at least once last year, infecting more people in a single year than any other virus in the state’s history, Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said.
- Dr Gerrard said high population levels of vaccine uptake in Queensland before the borders opened restricted deaths from the virus
- 4,283 people have been diagnosed with flu so far this year, much higher than at the same time in 2022 and 2021
- As of Wednesday last week, 183 people were being treated in Queensland public hospitals for COVID-19
But he said waiting until most people were vaccinated before reopening the state’s borders meant Queensland’s death rate from the pandemic virus in 2022 was about one-tenth that of the US.
Dr Gerrard said COVID-19 was listed as the underlying cause of 1,757 Queenslanders’ deaths by January 31 this year – a death rate of 33.9 per 100,000 population.
He said that was against estimates of more than 80 per cent of adult Queenslanders being infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, at least once in 2022 – a figure based on antibody testing of the state’s blood donors.
The COVID data is reported in the biennial Health of Queenslanders’ report, the second published during the pandemic and Dr Gerrard’s first since taking over as the state’s Chief Health Officer from Dr Jeannette Young in late 2021.
“There’s no other infectious disease that has ever infected that many people in the one year,” Dr Gerrard said in an interview with the ABC.
“COVID-19 has been arguably, probably along with HIV, the biggest natural disaster in 100 years on the planet. It’s inevitable that it would affect Queenslanders in some way.
“I think it probably will affect life expectancy (in this state) but nothing like the effect … in the US. There are very few places in the world that are similar to Queensland.”
Fatality rate ‘no higher than seasonal flu’
Dr Gerrard said high population levels of vaccine uptake in Queensland before the borders opened restricted deaths from the virus to fewer than one in 2,000 people infected – a figure he said was similar to “most other respiratory viruses”, such as seasonal flu.
“If you look at the actual infection fatality rate for COVID (in Queensland), it was no higher than seasonal flu,” he said.
“What’s different is that there were about 4 million people infected (with SARS-CoV-2), whereas in a bad flu season we might have 50,000 cases.”
Dr Gerrard said his biggest concern moving forward was for people aged over 65 and for immuno-suppressed Queenslanders.
“Most elderly people do OK, particularly if they’re vaccinated,” he said.
“That’s because the vaccines are just so effective.
“The one reservation I still have is older people over the age of 65 with waning immunity.
“We still need to push for them to get boosted after six months.”
Vaccinate against flu and COVID: CHO
With flu numbers ramping up and COVID-19 hospitalisations starting to rise, Dr Gerrard urged Queenslanders to make sure they were vaccinated against both.
“I think if you’re getting one, you should be getting the other,” Dr Gerrard.
“We can give them at the same time.”
Queensland Health data shows 4,283 people have been diagnosed with flu so far this year, much higher than at the same time in 2022 and 2021, when numbers were affected by fewer people travelling.
As of Wednesday last week, 183 people were being treated in Queensland public hospitals for COVID-19, up slightly from the week before.