14 April 2022

ACT exceeds 90,000 COVID-19 cases, records 47th death; airport staff to work as close contacts

| Lottie Twyford
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Canberra Airport terminal

Asymptomatic Canberra Airport staff have been granted an exemption to work as close contacts this long weekend. Photo: File.

There have now been upwards of 90,000 COVID-19 cases recorded in the ACT since the pandemic began, meaning more than one-fifth of the Territory’s population has reported an infection.

A man in his 70s has become the 47th person to die with COVID-19 in the Territory. ACT Health has extended its condolences to the man’s family and friends.

To 8 pm yesterday, 1074 (635 PCR, 439 RAT) cases of the virus were reported to ACT Health, taking the total active caseload to 5535 (3026 PCR and 2509 RAT).

Ahead of this weekend’s expected travel boom, ACT Health has signed off on an exemption that will allow check-in and baggage staff to work as close contacts, as long as they are asymptomatic.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman, who granted the exemption, said workers must not only be symptom-free but must also return a negative rapid antigen test each day before attending work.

The exemption came into force today and is only in place until 11:59 pm on 25 April.

“The temporary exemption may only be utilised if the employer is satisfied that the essential airport worker’s absence from the workplace creates a high risk to critical service delivery and where all other reasonably practicable, lower-risk options are exhausted,” the exemption read.

Workers have been asked to travel individually to the airport and should wear a mask. They must also not attend any other public places.

Airports around the country are expected to experience their busiest day in two years as thousands of people prepare to travel for the Easter long weekend.

Stephen Byron

Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said the airport is expected to reach 80 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels this afternoon and tomorrow morning. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Earlier this week, Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said the airport had been running at 75 per cent of pre-pandemic capacity over the last two weeks. They expected it to reach 80 per cent this weekend.

“Compare that to five weeks ago, we were only at around 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and 25 per cent over Christmas,” Mr Byron said.

The airport has been ushering through around 9000 travellers a day, but it has been putting pressure on an already-stretched workforce hampered by the close contact quarantine rules.

Mr Byron had called for this exemption earlier in the week as similar rules were already in place for NSW airport staff.

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Locally, there are now 56 people in hospital with COVID-19. One person is in the ICU and being ventilated.

Yesterday, there were 61 COVID-19 patients in the Territory’s hospitals, including two in the ICU, both of whom required ventilation.

The Territory recorded 1073 new COVID-19 infections yesterday.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 90,567 (57,406 PCR and 33,161 RAT) local infections.

The double-dose vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population remains 96.6 per cent, and 74.5 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have now received a booster.

Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 61.5 per cent have received two doses of vaccine.

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ACT Health has confirmed some COVID-19 testing centres will remain open over the long weekend from Friday, 15 April, to Monday, 18 April:

  • Garran, from 7:30 am to 9 pm (testing for all ages)
  • Mitchell drive through, from 1:30 pm to 9 pm (testing for people aged 5 years and over)
  • Holt, from 8 am to midday (testing for all ages)
  • Kambah drive-through, from 8 am to midday (testing for people aged 5 years and over).

Currently, wait times for test results are generally less than 24 hours, although they can take up to 48 hours in some cases. Wait times for testing at clinics are generally less than one hour.

However, the ACT Government COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the AIS Arena and Access and Sensory COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Weston Creek will be closed over the Easter holiday (15 to 18 April) and Anzac Day (25 April).

Walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations at the AIS will be available from Tuesday, 19 April.

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Interstate, NSW has reported 21 deaths overnight and 17,856 new cases of COVID-19.

There are now 1582 people in hospital with the virus and 71 people in ICUs around the state.

Victoria has reported 14 deaths overnight and an additional 10,462 cases of COVID-19.

There are now 392 people hospitalised with the virus, while 19 patients are in the state’s intensive care units.

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