The Territory has recorded 1367 (767 PCR and 600 RAT) new COVID-19 infections in the 24 hours to 8 pm last night as the Federal Government defends its pandemic ‘confusing’ messaging.
The government is now simultaneously urging vaccination and warning of impending high caseloads while scrapping programs intended to help vulnerable people access tests, health care and safely isolate.
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler yesterday (13 July) warned there would be millions of people infected by COVID-19 in the coming weeks. He urged people to get their next vaccination if they are eligible.
Mr Butler said the real case numbers were likely much higher than what was being reported officially and reiterated comments from Chief Health Officers around the country, including the ACT’s Dr Kerryn Coleman, that mask-wearing indoors was recommended but not mandatory.
He has shied away from mandates, arguing people get to a point where they don’t like being told what to do.
But he said the focus was now on reducing serious illness and hospitalisations, which was why the government had rolled out their winter booster campaign.
The government has also increased access to oral antiviral medications, Paxlovid and Lagevrio, in an attempt to keep people out of hospitals.
He made the plea following the government’s decisions not to extend the free rapid antigen test scheme for concession card holders or extend pandemic leave payments to help COVID-19-positive workers isolate. The government has also scaled back telehealth consultations.
Unions and medical expert bodies want those programs extended.
ACT Pharmacy Guild President Simon Blacker said yesterday he was confused by the Federal Government’s timing given the expected increase in cases and hospitalisations driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
In a slight decline from yesterday’s record high, there are now 137 patients in Canberra Hospital with the virus. Of these, five are in ICU and three require ventilation.
There are now 7163 (3882 PCR and 3281 RAT) known active infections in the Territory.
A total of 174,861 (104,061 PCR and 70,800 RAT) COVID-19 cases have been recorded since the pandemic began in March 2020.
The double-dose vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population remains 97.4 per cent and 77.5 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have received a booster.
Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 69.4 per cent have received two doses of vaccine.
Interstate, NSW has reported 36 deaths overnight and 14,235 new cases of COVID-19.
There are now 2001 people in hospital with the virus and 56 people in ICUs around the state.
Victoria has reported 20 deaths overnight and 11,283 cases of COVID-19.
There are now 771 people hospitalised with the virus and 34 patients are in the state’s intensive care units.