A supervisor at a Brisbane Youth Detention centre in Wacol has tested positive for COVID19, forcing hundreds of staff and children into lockdown.
Authorities are now bracing for a potential outbreak at the facility, after it was revealed the 77-year-old supervisor worked five shifts while infectious.
The pending test results of staff and young people will determine whether the woman is the source of Queensland’s first community transmission in a month.
Approximately 40 per cent of children in the facility are Indigenous and there are serious concerns about how the lockdown will impact their mental health and physical wellbeing.
Debbie Kilroy, CEO of ‘Sisters Inside’ has been calling for the release of young people in detention since the beginning of the pandemic.
Ms Kilroy told NITV News that she was deeply concerned about the physical and mental health of the Indigenous residents and said that the confinement of these children, 57 per cent who are on remand, is a failed response.
“A lot of the Indigenous children in these youth justice centres come from backgrounds where their health is a lot worse than the average child the same age, so with COVID now inside that prison I am very concerned that if a child contracts the virus it may result in a child dying.”
Health Minister Steven Miles told SBS News that 127 children who are residents of the facility have been isolated in their rooms since Wednesday evening. He said health staff are closely monitoring the physical and mental health of residents in lockdown.
A representative from the Department of Youth Justice Queensland said there is a mental health unit and medical staff permanently based within the facility, and a behaviour support team.
The CEO of the Youth Advocacy Centre Janet Wight agreed there are too many children being held in remand and that the authorities must find a balance between protecting the youths from the potential health impacts of COVID and the risk to their mental health that may emerge from isolating them in confinement.
“It is not something that should be taken lightly, being held in confinement for periods of time without some sense of freedom is very confronting,” Ms Wright told NITV News.
Ms Kilroy is calling on the state government to act urgently.
“The 127 children must be released into the community and supported with a medical response. They’re being kept in solitary confinement with no contact with anybody, it’s not their room or their home, it’s a prison cell.”
Director-General of Youth Justice Bob Gee told the ABC that the timeframe of the lockdown would be in line with health advice, but that a 14-day quarantine period in the facility was likely.
“You cannot contain a child and not expect a negative outcome, this could traumatise them for the rest of their lives” Ms Kilroy told NITV News.