TROPIC NOW EXCLUSIVE
A quarter of the Far North Queensland population - about 70,000 people - will catch coronavirus over the course of the next six months, but 80% of those will only experience mild and moderate symptoms.
According to modelling released by Queensland Health today, the remaining 20% - about 14,000 people in the region - will require assistance of some kind from the health system, including GPs, pharmacists and local hospitals.
There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Cairns as of 5pm Friday, but Tropic Now understands hundreds of people have been tested in Cairns in recent weeks, with more than 50 placed in self-isolation due to overseas travel or other risk factors.
It is understood Cairns Hospital has begun preparing for the potential outbreak by cancelling non-essential elective surgery, creating an isolation zone and fever clinic along with increasing ICU beds.
Official modelling by Queensland Health today predicted one in four people - about 70,000 in Far North Queensland and 1.25 million people across the state - will be infected over the next six months as the infection rate rapidly escalates in coming weeks and months.
Despite the escalation of the coronavirus situation, including a ban on events of over 500 people, the message from local health professionals is clear: there is no need to panic, because 80% of people will experience symptoms similar to the common cold.
Simple precautions such as social distancing and good personal hygiene are essential over coming weeks and months, with the elderly and those with existing medical conditions most at risk.
Trent Twomey, an adjunct professor at James Cook University, Pharmacy Guild Queensland President and Alive Pharmacy chain co-owner, told Tropic Now that people experiencing symptoms similar to the common cold must not leave their homes to seek assistance, and instead call their local pharmacy, GP or hospital for advice and help.
"People need to be reminded that COVID-19 is a variant of the common cold - it's not a variant of influenza, which means 80% of people who contract coronavirus will experience mild and moderate symptoms," he said.
"If you are sick enough to need medical intervention, do not leave your home - instead you need to call for help and ask for further directions and assistance."
Mr Twomey urged people to get their 2020 flu vaccinations as soon as possible.
"The 2020 influenza vaccination is now available from your local pharmacy or GP and it's incredibly important that everyone gets that done," Mr Twomey said.
"To clarify - the 2020 influenza vaccination does not protect you from coronavirus.
"But if you catch coronavirus and the flu at the same time, you will move into the high risk area along with the elderly and those with an existing medical condition.
"We are urging people to contact your local pharmacy or GP for information about getting the flu vaccination."