It’s January 28, 2020 – the Gold Coast is buzzing. Summer is in full swing. Things are good. But how things were about to change.
For several weeks we’d be hearing about a strange virus in China that had quickly spread out of control over there.
It was January 25, 2020, when the first confirmed case of the virus was detected in Australia.
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It didn’t even have a name back then.
Fast forward a few days and all of a sudden this mystery virus had made its way to the Gold Coast.
A 44-year-old man from the Chinese city of Wuhan had flown to the Gold Coast from Melbourne before reporting symptoms of the virus.
He was put into isolation at the Gold Coast University Hospital before tests confirmed he was Queensland’s first case of COVID.
The doctor who treated him at the time is now Queensland’s top doctor – Chief Health Officer John Gerrard.
The diagnosis prompted the state government to declare a public health emergency the next day.
Several members of the man’s travelling group subsequently tested positive for the virus in the following days.
At the time the man from Wuhan tested positive there were only six other known cases of COVID-19 in Australia.
But cases quickly began to grow, particularly among people who were returning from overseas.
Hollywood actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson were among the overseas arrivals who tested positive for the virus in Australia.
Hanks was on the Gold Coast to film Baz Luhrman’s Elvis Presley biopic.
It wasn’t until March 19, 2020, that Australia’s international borders were slammed shut to all non-citizens and non-residents.
Three days later in a late-night press conference, the Prime Minister announced the shutdown of all non-essential indoor venues including pubs, cafes, gyms and churches while tough social distancing rules were introduced across Queensland.
Gold Coast streets were abandoned while tourist meccas like Surfers Paradise became ghost towns.
Queensland then slammed the border shut to New South Wales on March 25, 2020, the first of several border closures over the last two years.
In the following days, Gold Coast beaches, outdoor exercise areas and playgrounds would be closed as people were urged to stay at home.
There have since been more than 2.4 million cases recorded across the country.
Queensland has gone on to record almost 370,000 cases since then, including more than 43,000 on the Gold Coast.
But Chief Health Officer John Gerrard is becoming increasingly confident the worst of the current Omicron wave could be behind us with case numbers lower than what was predicted.
“I’m definitely becoming more optimistic as the days go by,” Dr Gerrard said.
“I don’t want to jump the gun. I don’t want to jinx us, but certainly, what we’re seeing is very positive here and I think I can say the reason for this is very straightforward. It’s wide-scale vaccination.
“There is no jurisdiction in the world that has done as well as Queensland so far. But it’s not over yet.”