Western Queensland residents and businesses alike have breathed a sigh of relief at the news that a flight attendant who was part of the crew on flights between Brisbane and Longreach a fortnight ago was unlikely to be COVID-19 positive at the time.
An alert was raised last Friday when it became known that authorities were aware that a female flight attendant who had worked on QantasLink regional routes to Longreach, Gladstone and Hervey Bay on July 11 and 12 had tested positive to COVID-19.
Queensland Health has since confirmed that she was not exposed to the virus until July 14.
Longreach businessman Rob Luck said the news had emptied the town of its booming tourism trade for a couple of days.
He said he hadn't been fearful when the news of a possible COVID-19 risk to the region broke, because processes were in place and he was confident they would be followed.
"The news led to COVID testing sites being set up, and people are expected to wear masks on a plane," he said. "It was just a rumour for a while that we'd been declared a hotspot that saw our trade drop dramatically on Friday and Saturday - the tourists hotfooted it out of town."
Fellow resident Sam Rutherford confirmed that the main street had emptied dramatically last Friday.
"I think we're all relieved that we seem to have dodged a bullet," he said. "The systems all seem to have worked."
Mr Rutherford was one of 282 people who undertook COVID-19 testing following the news on Friday, July 23 that contact tracing (Delta variant) exposure sites had been set up in the central west.
He said his results had returned negative within 10 hours of testing in Longreach.
Central West Hospital and Health Service health service chief executive Jane Hancock said no positive cases of COVID-19 detected to date in the region.
"The Central West Hospital and Health Service worked closely with Longreach community partners including Longreach Regional Council, Queensland Ambulance Service, Queensland Police Service, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, Longreach State Emergency Service to deliver pop-up, drive-through testing clinics at the showgrounds on Friday, Saturday and Sunday," she said.
"The central west community has been magnificent in their acknowledgement of this most recent risk, and their almost instantaneous response to our advice.
"We had families testing and then quarantining right across the central west in line with directions from their Public Health Unit contact tracers.
"Local lead agencies from their communities also jumped in with safe and comprehensive community support to ensure they remained connected."
Some 214 people were tested at the pop-up, drive-through COVID-19 testing clinic at the Longreach Showgrounds, and 68 were tested at all other CWHHS facility sites across the central west.
WQ vaccination call
In the wake of last week's scare that a flight attendant may have introduced COVID-19 to western Queensland, CWHHS executive director of medical services Dr David Walker has urged residents to pull out all stops and roll up to be vaccinated.
He said the new Queensland case involving the flight attendant should be a wake-up call to all in the region.
"We have been lucky so far that we have had no local cases of COVID-19 within our health service,'' he said.
"But we cannot rely on luck to continue protecting us. Vaccination is the best and only way to protect our communities.
"While no vaccine is 100 per cent effective, current evidence shows that people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine have a much lower chance of developing more serious symptoms from the virus, compared to those who did not get the vaccine.
"And remember, I cannot emphasise enough that once you have had a first dose of vaccine, you must not neglect to have your second dose.
"You need two doses of the same vaccine for maximal effective protection, so please make sure you have both - whether that's two doses of AstraZeneca or two doses of Pfizer.
"This is particularly important for people who are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
"This includes people aged 70 and older, those with certain chronic conditions and those who have conditions that compromise their immune systems.
"If you have any medical conditions, you should discuss your individual risk and what you can do to protect yourself with your treating doctor.''
As of the middle of July, a total of 783 first and second dose Pfizer vaccinations had been delivered by CWHHS vaccination clinics at Longreach and Blackall.
Just over 61 per cent of the eligible central west population had received at least a first dose of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine.
"Across the region, about 36 per cent of the total eligible population is now fully vaccinated with both first and second doses of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer,'' Dr Walker said.
"These are good numbers overall, among the best in the state, and we are tracking well, given the geographic challenges of delivering vaccinations to remote communities such as ours, as well as a degree of vaccine hesitancy among some of our residents."
Dr Walker said first and second dose Pfizer clinics were continuing across the central west.
"Our catch-up AstraZeneca clinics for those who have had a first dose of the vaccine already but, for some reason or other, have missed out on their second dose, also will get under way next week and will visit various communities over the next four weeks,'' he said.
CWHHS has been partnering with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland) and the Western Queensland Primary Health Network to deliver the vaccination program to remote communities such as Windorah, Stonehenge, Yaraka, Jundah and Birdsville.
Want daily news highlights delivered to your inbox? Sign up to the Queensland Country Life newsletter below.