UPDATE 3:35 pm: Canberrans should prepare for tighter restrictions as the ACT moves into its extended lockdown phase.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he would announce the new settings for the extra two weeks tomorrow but would not elaborate, saying the government needed to take the next 24 hours to advise stakeholders and areas of economic interest.
“We’re only a few days in so it’s not a situation that the existing settings have not worked, but the extent of new cases demands going beyond seven days,” he said.
“We will respond accordingly. What I can say very confidently is that this is a lockdown that the people of Canberra are taking seriously, and it is not following a path that we saw 300 kilometres up the road for seven weeks.”
Mr Barr said people were generally responding well but reiterated his general guidance for people to stay at home, and when going out for exercise or supplies to remain in your local area.
This may become more of a direction under the next round of lockdown settings, with Mr Barr saying there was no need in a place like Canberra to travel far from home.
“Supermarkets are available all over Canberra,” he said. “There are many fantastic places to get your hour’s exercise without coming into contact with other people all over the ACT.”
Mr Barr ruled out a curfew such as Victoria has introduced.
He said he would prefer for Federal Parliament not to sit. It was likely the 31 August ACT Budget would now be postponed amid a rescheduling of Legislative Assembly sittings and functions.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said it would take at least two weeks to get to a position such as Queensland of all cases being in quarantine.
But in the short term, she expected to see more cases and more exposure sites, with about 6,500 close contacts identified so far.
Of the 19 new cases today, two were from the Fiction nightclub, two from the Downer Community Centre and one from the Greenway Views aged care centre at Tuggeranong.
ACT Health is still investigating all 19 transmissions as a priority to determine if they were linked.
“We are dealing with what happens when a seeding of a case comes into a community which is not maximally vaccinated and which has very few community restrictions,” Dr Coleman said.
She was as confident as she could be three days into the outbreak of getting to where Queensland is.
“I’ve said before I make no promises … we are doing our very, very level best here,” Dr Coleman said.
She said the ACT needed to ride out the wave of those four or five days of exposure before the first case was picked up.
It is believed that the aged care worker had had one dose of vaccine so Dr Coleman was hopeful that the extent of transmission was reduced.
ACT Health was still investigating the vaccination status of residents and staff, and whether the worker had shifts at any other centres.
Investigations were continuing into the source of the ACT outbreak and Patient Zero, but Dr Coleman said authorities were likely only dealing with one or two seedings, not multiple incursions.
Mr Barr declined to comment directly on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s claim that the ACT outbreak prompted the state-wide NSW lockdown.
“We all know why we are in lockdown,” he said. “Operation Stay At Home is an excellent idea – it’s a pity it didn’t happen seven weeks ago.”
Testing has ramped up with Seiffert Oval in Queanbeyan taking people diverted away from Brindabella where members of the Lyneham High community were given priority. Lyneham High members were also directed to the pop-up site at Gold Creek.
The Kambah site will reopen tomorrow. About 5,700 people have been tested in the past 24 hours.
The ACT Magistrates Court was also closed today due to a court associate confirmed as a close contact at one of the exposure sites.
12:30 pm: Canberra’s lockdown will be expanded for a further two weeks until 2 September after 19 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, including a Lyneham High School student and an aged care worker at Greenway Views aged care at Tuggeranong.
Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman said while the situation was very serious, the developments were not unexpected.
There are now 28 active COVID-19 cases in the ACT.
The ACT's lockdown has extended for two more weeks, to September 2 following 19 new cases of COVID-19 in the community.
Posted by The RiotACT on Sunday, August 15, 2021
The aged care worker unknowingly worked three shifts at the facility before becoming symptomatic on 13 August.
“At this stage, the good news is that none of our active cases are hospitalised,” Dr Coleman said at the daily press conference.
This is the first time the ACT has recorded a case in aged care, but Dr Coleman said plans had been in place for 12 months to deal with the eventuality and the ACT is working closely with the Commonwealth to manage the situation.
Additional safety measures at Greenway Views, including the possibility of full PPE for staff, are being investigated, and all residents and staff on site are being tested today.
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The Lyneham High School student was at school and potentially infectious from Monday, 9 August to Thursday, 12 August between 8:30 am and 3:30 pm each day. There is a further exposure site at UC Kaleen High School’s instrumental music program room.
Household members of Lyneham High students are required to quarantine, similar to the steps taken at Gold Creek School. The school community has been notified of specific testing times allocated for them at the Brindabella Park testing centre.
There are now over 45 exposure sites in total in the ACT.
“This is a very concerning progression but it’s not, for want of a better word, alarming,” Dr Coleman said.
“We will see a rise in cases and as the lockdown progresses. Those cases will fall and we’ll get to a place where, as we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, the new cases have been in quarantine for the whole time.”
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith thanked Canberrans for supporting the public health effort and ACT Health staff.
“I want to thank everyone for their kind messages to our staff,” she said. “They are passed on at the end of each day, acknowledging their very hard work.”
She acknowledged that the rapidly increasing number of close and casual contacts had stressed testing sites, where capacity has been increased in an attempt to reduce long waiting times.
However, wait times vary across all sites, and Ms Stephen-Smith encouraged people to check ACT Health and Canberra Health websites and social media feeds before leaving home to get tested.
Additional staff have been deployed from other ACT Health services to support the testing surge. Consequently, the Inner North Walk-in Centre has been temporarily closed, although maternal and child health services remain open at Dickson.
Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan said that compliance with restrictions has been very high across the ACT. Yesterday ACT Policing stopped 1000 motor vehicles and checked on 145 businesses and houses to ensure people were quarantining.
Six infringement notices were issued on a single residential construction site in Taylor, and police said substantial workplace compliance would be implemented in conjunction with Worksafe ACT.
Two further infringement notices were also issued and further complaints from members of the public were followed up.
However, the Chief Police Officer urged Canberrans not to use emergency contacts to check on restrictions.
“Triple zero is for emergencies, not to check whether you can cross the border to buy bacon and eggs,” he said.
“Thank you, Canberra, for coming forward to be tested in such great numbers,” Chief Minister Andrew Barr said.
“Thank you for listening to advice from public health professionals, [it’s] so important at this time. Taking the time to get tested gives us the surveillance we need to get ahead of the virus.”
Mr Barr said the ACT was working hard to avoid the exponential increase in infections seen in other jurisdictions.
“Please stay at home,” he said. “Lockdowns are a proven measure to suppress chains of transmission of the virus. They have worked elsewhere in Australia and overseas, and if we do the right thing, it will work here in Canberra.”
Lockdown measures would be assessed every day and could be lifted earlier if possible.