Minister Craig Crawford brought a grim warning to the South Burnett and Cherbourg on Thursday

October 22, 2021

The COVID-19 virus will be circulating in the South Burnett and Cherbourg by early January – or maybe even before Christmas.

This is the grim warning Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Craig Crawford brought to local residents on Thursday.

Minister Crawford and his Ministerial colleagues have been despatched across the State by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in a last-ditch bid to get vaccination rates up ahead of the December 17 opening up of the State.

While Minister Crawford visited Cherbourg, Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner visited Kingaroy.

They both had the same message: Get vaccinated!

The window of opportunity for Queenslanders to become fully vaccinated ahead of the predicted spread of the virus after the borders open has almost slammed shut.

December 17 is just eight weeks away, about the same time required to receive both doses and develop best immunity.

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Minister Crawford with Cherbourg Mayor Elvie Sandow

In Cherbourg, Minister Crawford met with councillors, health workers and Elders and attended a community barbecue.

Strategies to improve vaccination rates in the community were discussed including door-to-door vaccinations, and possibly even supermarket vouchers.

As at October 18, 32.3 per cent of the Cherbourg population had received one dose, while just 24.9 per cent were fully vaccinated.

“I want to understand firsthand what the people think and the reason Cherbourg has lower vaccination numbers,” Minister Crawford told southburnett.com.au.

“Because the State is opening up for interstate travel on December 17, there is every expectation that the Delta strain will arrive by car or by air.”

If people waited until mid-December to get vaccinated, they would not be protected in time when the virus hits.

“It’s highly likely that if Delta is not already (in Queensland) by December 17, it will arrive on December 17,” Minister Crawford.

It would quickly reach communities such as Murgon and Cherbourg.

“It will make its way to every single house and spread like the common cold spreads … very, very easily just by two people passing each other in the shop,” Minister Crawford said.

“But the difference will be that those people who have had the vaccination will fare a whole lot better than those who have not had the vaccination.

“We want people to understand the consequences of not getting vaccinated and the risks that poses to their health.”

Minister Crawford said the Chief Health Officer would have the powers to impose restrictions on Local Government Areas that have lower vaccination rates.

“That could be lockdowns, it could be mask wearing, it could be restrictions around gathering numbers so the incentive certainly for all towns and communities is to be double-vaccinated,” he said.

“We need all towns and communities to be well above 80 per cent.

“The virus will be circulating in the streets of Cherbourg by very early January, if not before Christmas.”

Minister Crawford said anyone with genuine hesitancy about getting vaccinated should not get their information from Facebook.

He said the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories on social media had made it hard for people to make an informed decision based on evidence and facts, particularly if there had been intergenerational trauma in families and suspicion of governments.

“Social media messaging by people who are ill-informed and don’t know what they’re talking about, spreading all sorts of non-truths and confusing people. It’s very unhelpful,” Minister Crawford said.

“I totally accept that this is an individual and personal choice for everybody. I want everyone to make a really informed decision about whether they want to have the vaccine or not. But I want that decision to be based on fact.

“I am imploring people … if you don’t want to have it, by all means don’t have it but please don’t preach to everyone else about why they shouldn’t have it. Let people make an informed decision based on evidence, not on nonsense.”

Minister Crawford urged people to get their information from a trusted source.

“Go talk to one of the clinicians. Go to one of the vaccine clinics and ask them the questions,” he said.

“They are nurses and doctors. They are qualified and can give you accurate information.”

UPDATE:  South Burnett Mayor Brett Otto said a Queensland Health vaccination bus will be going door-to-door in Cherbourg and Murgon from next Tuesday for two weeks, offering Pfizer vaccinations.

Minister Crawford with Mayor Elvie Sandow, CEO Chatur Zala and councillors

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Cr Kathy Duff, Mayor Brett Otto, Minister Mark Furner and Cr Roz Frohloff in Kingaroy on Thursday (Photo: Cr Kathy Duff)

While Minister Crawford was in Cherbourg, Minister Furner met with South Burnett councillors in Kingaroy.

He said local government leaders were leading by example by encouraging as many local people as possible to get vaccinated.

Minister Furner recognised the commitment of the agriculture industry and councils to reaching the 80 per cent double dose target ahead of border restrictions easing.

“I’ve been impressed by the efforts of local businesses like Nolan Meats (in Gympie) and local mayors like Brett Otto in the South Burnett who are committed to seeing locals get vaccinated to keep them safe,” Minister Furner said.

“Whether it is offering incentives, providing vaccination information or just getting the message out, these contributions are critical to making sure this region hits the targets.

“Mayor Otto has an important platform as the Mayor of South Burnett, and he is serving his community well by sharing a strong pro-vaccination message.”

Mayor Otto welcomed Minister Furner’s visit.

“Now is not a time for apathy. Under the strong leadership of our Premier, Queenslanders have stayed in a good place while other States and nations felt the COVID impact,” Mayor Otto said.

“There’s more to do and now more than ever we must support the Premier’s call to action to get vaccinated.”

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Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington and Federal Member for Wide Bay Llew O’Brien issued a joint statement on Thursday backing Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council’s call on Wednesday for residents to get vaccinated.

“Now that we have better access to vaccines in our region we encourage community members to take up this opportunity and get vaccinated so we can look after our family and friends,” Mrs Frecklington and Mr O’Brien said.

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Queensland Health has released public health alerts for contact tracing locations in Broadbeach, Stafford, Richlands and Acacia Ridge following the news that a ride-share driver had tested positive to the Delta strain in Robina on Wednesday. 

The man, who is seriously ill in hospital, is believed to have been infectious in the community for about 10 days.

Queensland Health has asked all Queenslanders to regularly monitor the list of exposure venues on the Queensland Health website and follow the public health advice, as more locations may be added.

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