Despite another day of only a small rise in COVID-19 cases and still no community transmission, the ACT is preparing for a tighter lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic as NSW and Victoria look certain to head down that path.
The good news today in the ACT is that a man aged in his 30 has made a full recovery and is now out of self-isolation, and only nine new cases have been confirmed, taking the Territory total to 53.
But both Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman and Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith admitted community transmission was inevitable in the ACT, and that the government was preparing for any eventuality.
Dr Coleman said the potential was for more ACT cases to be linked to NSW.
“We can only hold this down for a certain amount of time,” Dr Coleman said. “When we do get community transmission we need to continue to suppress that as much as we can to minimise it.”
With the ACT in lockstep with a NSW warning restrictions will have to tighten if the rise in cases is to be slowed, and Victoria urging a move to tougher Stage 3 restrictions after three deaths in 24 hours, it also seems inevitable that the ACT will follow suit.
Ms Stephen-Smith said the ACT needed to be consistent with NSW because the entire border was with that state and the Canberra region was not just the ACT.
She said most in the community had a sense a greater lockdown was coming.
“Everyone in our community is preparing ourselves mentally, people buying up a lot of food and other things at supermarkets for that potential outcome,” she said.
“And I think there’s a lot of people in our community who just want to do that because that will give them a sense of certainty.”
The Minister also warned that anybody returning from overseas must by law self-quarantine for 14 days, and the government would not hesitate to prosecute any who breached that direction
“We are still continuing to see the vast majority of cases in the ACT in returned travellers from overseas or close contacts of those people. By self-quarantining you protect others from the virus you may be carrying,” she said.
“Don’t assume you are not, assume that you are. You only have to look at other countries to see what the infection rates are looking like.”
Dr Coleman said the community was still on a learning curve when it came to social distancing and urged people to stop mixing and congregating, for example, while buying coffee.
The new cases include six men and three women, aged between 21 and 83.
“ACT Health is undertaking thorough contact tracing but can confirm that eight of the cases are linked to overseas travel, including cruise ships, and one is a close contact of a confirmed case,” ACT Health said in a statement.
The US Embassy revealed today that one of its staff had tested positive but Dr Coleman had no information about that patient.
There have been 3219 negative COVID-19 tests in the ACT to date.
There are still three COVID-19 patients in the Canberra hospital, all in a stable condition. The rest are isolating at home with ACT Health support.
The man who has recovered was diagnosed on 12 March. To be considered clear of the virus one needs to be at least 10 days past the onset of symptoms and symptom free for at least three days.
People who are concerned and want further information on the virus should call the Australian Government’s Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For more information and flight row details of returned travellers who have tested positive go to ACT Health.