People returning to Canberra who have visited Sydney’s Northern Beaches since 11 December must get tested and immediately self-isolate for 14-days, under a new ACT Health direction issued this afternoon.
The health direction, which became effective as of midday today (18 December), legally requires people who have visited the Sydney hotspot to isolate even if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms or return a negative test result.
The Sydney cluster has grown to 28 people as of this morning.
Anyone who has visited a hotspot identified by NSW Health must also contact ACT Health’s COVID-19 team.
So far “several” people have contacted ACT Health and lines at testing locations across Canberra have blown out as people rush to be tested, Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said.
Dr Coleman would not provide any more detail on the number of travellers who have visited the Northern Beaches local government area, but said “we have had several calls through Access Canberra and through our team line and have seen a lot of people turn up to the testing area”.
“That does not give us specifics about how many people have been to the Northern Beaches area and at this time I cannot give any specific information but I think there has been a lot of travel in the past few weeks.”
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith has told Canberrans to avoid going to Sydney unless it is absolutely necessary, calling it a “terrible idea” to visit the Northern Beaches at the moment.
“My advice would be to really think twice about travelling to Sydney this weekend … while we get a clearer understanding about what is going on with this cluster,” she said.
“Just stay home if you can and do not invite friends from Sydney to come to Canberra.
“I know it is really inconvenient and a lot of people are travelling at this time and a lot of people will be finishing up work today and planning to take their leave, but I would say, put your travel off for a couple of days.”
Ms Stephen-Smith advised that the Weston Creek walk-in centre will continue to be a COVID-19 testing clinic.
Walk-in centres are free and open daily from 7.30 am to 10.00 pm, including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
As of midnight Friday, people travelling from NSW will need a permit to enter Victoria and those who have been to the designated hotspot areas will be denied entry.
People who have visited the Northern Beaches since 11 December will have to undertake mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense from 1:00 am Saturday (19 December) if they want to enter Queensland. Police will reintroduce a border pass system and conduct vehicle checks at the border.
The ACT Government has a dedicated COVID-19 website for all information about the health and economic response to the pandemic in the ACT. For further information visit www.covid19.act.gov.au.