Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has given a frank assessment of the coronavirus pandemic saying: "I don't know what's going to get us out of this".

But at the same time, Dr Young told an Australian Medical Association Queensland breakfast it was important to be optimistic going forward, given the state had done exceptionally well so far during the once-in-a-century health crisis.

Despite predictions that Queensland would see 10,000 deaths in the first wave of the virus, the state has recorded just 1162 infections, including six deaths.

"We haven't had a wave yet," Dr Young said.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young. Photo: Josh Woning.
Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young. Photo: Josh Woning.

But she told the Women in Medicine breakfast of about 150 people she was "a bit concerned" about managing SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, virus going forward.

"It's the unknown," Dr Young said. "How are we going to get ourselves out of this? We can't stay as we are. We just can't.

"It's not good for mental health alone, let alone all the other issues in our economy. And I think our economy is a big player in mental health outcomes.

"I think our young people as a generation are really going to struggle and I'm so glad that the Federal government is putting in those incentives for workers to be hired who are younger.

"I know that then causes a problem for older workers but if we don't get young people, give them some hope and some ability to enter life, they're just going to be a totally lost generation going forward."

Dr Young said it was important to put as many resources into assisting the younger generation as possible, particularly given evidence of increased referrals for adolescents to Queensland public mental health services in the past three months.

"Universities are still mainly online. They can't make those networks that are so critical in life," she said.

"I'm not surprised it's that younger age group that is having that really increased risk of mental health problems."

Queensland Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles with his Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young. Photo: Annette Dew.
Queensland Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles with his Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young. Photo: Annette Dew.

Dr Young said despite the potential for the development of a coronavirus vaccine, it was difficult to know how effective it was likely to be.

"At the moment they're talking about it probably being 50 per cent effective, which is good," she said.

"If you halve the risk of dying, of course that's good."

But she said a vaccine was not going to be able to "just suddenly enable us to go back to what we were".

While Dr Young expects to have to deal with further outbreaks of the virus in Queensland, she said it was too easy to be "doomsday" about the pandemic.

"We've got to do the opposite," she said. "Somehow, we have not sold that message that we have done really well and we can engage and we can go forward in how we've dealt with the pandemic here in Queensland. We can do this and we're in it together.

"We've succeeded and we have to build on that."

Dr Young said it was also important to "be kind to each other".

"It's so easy to be critical," she said.

"If we could always start with that philosophy, just to be kind to each other. I just think it's so important."

 

Originally published as CHO has no idea what's going to get us out of pandemic


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