While Greater Brisbane will be released from its lockdown on Monday night, masks will remain a normal part of life for at least the next ten days.
Residents have been told they will need to mask up “wherever possible”, but will no longer need to wear one in their own car – a rule slammed as “absolutely ridiculous” during the city’s three-day weekend lockdown.
Queensland recorded no new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Monday out of 18,904 tests, prompting the state’s premier and chief health officer to wind back movement restrictions from 6pm.
The city’s 2.5 million residents spent the weekend inside while authorities raced to test and isolate anyone who came in contact with a hotel quarantine cleaner who contracted the highly contagious UK variant of COVID-19.
Queensland Health initially told drivers and passengers alike to wear a mask in the car while out for any permissible reason, “because a consistent approach helps keep people safe.”
“We want you to wear a mask when you leave home – by whatever means, for whatever reason,” a social media post read on Saturday.
However, as the premier and chief health officer announced lockdown would ease at 6pm on Monday night, they clarified masks were no longer required while driving.
It’s a rule that was immediately slammed as “ridiculous” by Brisbane residents, prompting an outpouring of backlash on social media.
After it was first announced, many criticised Queensland Health for having “officially lost the plot”.
“This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen … QLD health are off their rockers and out of control,” Al Lancaster said.
“The car contains covid particles that only happened since going into a three-day lock down, so that’s why we have to wear a mask in the car … also wear one at home and in the shower … also on the toilet,” Hayley Mah wrote.
“There is no scientific valid reason to wear a mask in your own car when by yourself,” Yvette Harth said.
“Wearing a mask alone in your car is just like wearing a condom alone in your bed,” another user wrote.
“Hey QLD Health. Just wondering if I need to wear a mask in my coffin when I die. Thanks!” wrote Liam Haverty.
“Queensland Health have no idea on the information they are providing,” Supa Tony wrote.
Annastacia Palaszczuk thanked Queenslanders for their “remarkable effort” over the weekend but said until at least January 22, Brisbane residents will continue to be required to wear a mask.
“We want to make sure that the incubation period, that 14 days, has totally lapsed before we return to normal,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Residents of Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan, Moreton Bay and Redlands council areas will need to carry a face mask with them “at all times” until 1am on January 22.
“You will need to wear your mask in shopping centres, supermarkets, retail outlets and indoor markets,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“In hospitals and aged care facilities, in churches and places of worship, libraries and at indoor recreational facilities such as cinemas, art galleries and gyms.”
Masks will also be required in indoor workplaces where workers cannot socially distance, as well as on public transport, and in taxis and ride shares.
Exercising outdoors will no longer require a mask.
Masks will also not need to be worn while eating or drinking in restaurants or cafes, however front-of-house hospitality workers will continue to need to mask up.
“When in doubt, wear a mask, that is very simple,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
In addition, indoor hospitality and retail spaces will go back to the one-per-four square metre rule while one-per-two square metres will continue outdoors.
No dancing will be allowed except for at weddings, and patrons will only be able to eat or drink in hospitality venues while sitting.
“It is only for ten days and then hopefully, if we get zero community transmission over those ten days, then we can just go back to (being the same as) the rest of Queensland,” Ms Palaszczuk said
Up to 20 people will be allowed to gather inside a private residence until January 22.
Weddings and funerals will be restricted to 100 people, and outdoor stadiums will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity.
At least 370 close contacts of the cleaner have been identified, 154 of which have so far tested negative.
It’s hoped restrictions on aged care homes, hospitals, disability accommodation and prisons will be eased on January 22 as well.
Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said it was important to take a slow and steady approach to coming out of lockdown.
“The pandemic is still with us,” she said.
“We have achieved so much this past weekend. It’s important we come out of it carefully and sensibly.”
Since 6pm on Friday, residents had only been allowed to leave their home for four reasons, and had to wear a mask anytime they stepped outside their home.
Four cases of coronavirus were detected in returned travellers in hotel quarantine.