18 November 2022

ACT COVID-19 cases jump, hospitalisations up for first time since winter wave

| Lottie Twyford
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covid test

PCR testing continues to be available to Canberrans. Photo: Canberra Health Services.

Reported COVID-19 cases in the ACT have jumped by 17.9 per cent this week as authorities acknowledge no one really knows what this COVID-19 wave will look like.

Last week, 1194 infections were reported compared to this week’s 1449 (541 PCR and 908 RAT). Since March 2020, a total of 212,092 infections have been recorded.

Last week, there were 37 people in hospital. This week’s hospital numbers are unavailable, but ACT Health said they have jumped for the first time since the July wave.

Authorities say the system is ready to cope with any increase.

Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith has warned of some uncertainty about what’s to come. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Authorities continue to urge COVID-safe behaviour and Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith asked people to reconsider their holiday plans and think about holding parties outside.

She urged Canberrans to get tested and isolate if unwell.

“I’m really hoping Christmas isn’t too disrupted, but again I’m encouraging people to think about how they are keeping their loved ones safe,” she said.

“You don’t want to be the person who has given COVID-19 to everyone else.”

The queue at the Garran COVID-19 testing centre.

Last Christmas, queues at testing centres stretched for hours as thousands got caught up as close contacts. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

In the last few weeks, cases have increased by 25 per cent and then 30 per cent, although Ms Stephen-Smith said this was less steep than previous waves had been.

She wouldn’t guess the trajectory of this current wave, saying it was “unpredictable”.

She said this wave would likely be longer and flatter than previous ones due to the protections afforded by vaccination and prior infections.

However, on Monday, the country’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said the opposite.

He said this wave would be short and sharp and was already nearing its peak.

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ACT Health’s latest weekly epidemiological report showed 11 per cent of reported cases were from individuals who had previously been infected.

Case numbers increased in all age groups, with the largest increase reported in those aged 40 to 49, followed by 18 to 24 and 50 to 64.

A total of 3168 PCR tests were conducted between 7 and 11 November. Based on this, the test positivity rate was 13 per cent – up from 6 per cent in early October.

Data for PCR testing over the weekend is incomplete due to the implementation of the Digital Health Record, ACT Health said.

BA.5 remains the dominant variant in the Territory, but many new BA.5 and BA.2 subvariants continue to be identified through whole genome sequencing.

Vaccination rates continue to stall in the Territory – aside from the category of those aged 50 and over where fourth doses continue to increase slowly.

Of the Territory’s five to 15 population, 77.1 per cent have now received two doses of vaccine; 78.5 per cent of those aged 16 and over have received three doses; 63.2 per cent of those aged 50 and over have received four doses.

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The NSW Government is once again recommending face masks on public transport as cases in the state continue to increase.

This followed Queensland moving to an Amber public health alert last week.

Ms Stephen-Smith has stressed that those recommendations to wear a face mask in high-risk settings and on public transport were never lifted in the Territory.

Reporting a positive rapid antigen test result also remains compulsory in the ACT, unlike in other jurisdictions.

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In the last week, NSW recorded 27,869 (12,383 RAT and 15,486 PCR) new infections and 39 people died with the virus.

That’s an 8060 case jump on last week.

There are now 1148 COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals and 37 people in ICU.

Victoria recorded 20,398 cases and 46 pandemic-related deaths. That’s up on last week’s tally of 16,636 infections.

The state’s seven-day rolling average for hospitalisations was 352 patients with eight people in the ICU.

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