QLD Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk criticised for suggesting Omicron could be ‘far more serious than Delta
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has been criticised for suggesting the Omicron variant of COVID-19 could be “far more serious” than the Delta strain.
Ms Palaszczuk made the comment in state parliament on Tuesday while addressing the discovery of a COVID patient with Omicron in the community in New South Wales.
“I’m very concerned now that there is a community case of Omicron in New South Wales,” the premier said.
“This is very worrying.
“The fact that countries have closed their borders indicates to me it is far more serious than Delta.”
It is not yet known if Omicron is more “serious” than Delta, according to health experts.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said hours prior to the premier’s comments that “it’s going to take time for us to work out” how Omicron differs to the highly virulent Delta strain.
The state opposition’s health spokeswoman Ros Bates said Palaszczuk was providing crucial health advice “from the hip”.
“At a time health experts should be guiding the conversation, the premier is sowing more chaos and confusion when we need calm and measured messaging,” Ms Bates told 7NEWS.com.au.
“The premier has made inaccurate claims before about AstraZeneca and children, which damaged Queensland’s vaccine rollout.
‘From the hip’
“Now she’s dishing out her own health advice about a new variant of concern with very little information to back up her claims.
“Queenslanders searching for certainty are getting tired of the premier constantly politicising the pandemic and firing her own medical advice from the hip.
“Queenslanders deserve better.”
A number of countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, as well as states in the European Union, have restricted travel from southern African countries over fears of the variant.
On Sunday, the federal government blocked non-Australian citizen travellers from nine countries – South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Australia has also placed a two-week pause on the next stage of the international border reopening plan.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stressed he is not “spooked” by the Omicron variant, insisting it would not put Australia back into lockdown.
“We have taken sensible precautions for a two-week pause for the next steps,” Mr Morrison told question time.
“As we continue to face these new variants of concern, and it is a variant of concern, we’ve dealt with many before.”
The prime minister said it was crucial state and territory leaders stick to their reopening plan, despite the Omicron variant raising anxieties about the virus.
Professor Kelly said there were several “unknowns” regarding Omicron.
“In terms of the severity, I did explain this a few times over the last couple of days, South Africa is very different to Australia,” Kelly said on Tuesday.
“Their life expectancy is 65 (years), only five per cent of the population is over the age of 65, they only have 25 per cent vaccine coverage.
“So it’s going to take time for us to work out what is the effect on older people, more people at higher risk of disease.
“Again, as I mentioned, most of the information and the detailed information are young travellers, people in their 30s or younger.
“And we know all of the variants of this virus are less likely to cause severe disease in that age group.
“So they’re the unknowns.”
– With AAP