UPDATED 2 pm: Health authorities say it’s unlikely the ACT will return to COVID-19 case numbers in the mid-teens and it’s likely the Territory’s outbreak total will pass 1000 in the next day or so.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman told today’s COVID briefing that while the ACT’s relatively small size and outbreak numbers make it difficult to assess trends, the recent sharp rise in numbers may not be an isolated occurrence.
“I’m not seeing [38 cases today] as a drop in numbers. These are still higher than the week before those two 52 days,” Dr Coleman said, referring to case numbers yesterday and on Friday.
“I suspect we have seen a step up in our plateau but it’s too early to say what that is, it’s a day-by-day proposition.”
While testing numbers often decline on weekends, authorities say that the weekend’s testing numbers so far have been within normal ranges.
Ms Stephen-Smith has also pointed to the rising case numbers in regional NSW including Queanbeyan, where diagnoses have climbed in recent days. While NSW numbers as a whole have dropped significantly, she said that the regions were “of great concern”.
Of the 27 new cases reported in the Southern NSW Local Health District in the 24 hours to 8 pm yesterday, 15 were in the Queanbeyan-Palerang region, four in Googong, six in Queanbeyan, three in Karabar, and two in Crestwood. Only seven are linked to known cases.
There were two new cases in the Goulburn Mulwaree region, one of which was linked to a known case.
There are 10 new cases in the Snowy Monaro region. Four were in Jindabyne, three in Cooma and three in Thredbo. Just five were linked to known cases. This brings the total cases in Southern NSW Local Health District, surrounding Canberra, to 250 since the start of the current outbreak in June.
Asked about concerns around the NRL Grand Final this evening, Ms Stephen Smith said “some people will break the rules and this is really disappointing”.
“We encourage people to think twice, three times before you have a grand final party and putting yourself, your family and friends at risk. You may have been exposed to the virus and not know it, and the chances of passing it on are very high with the delta variant.”
Acknowledging a level of lockdown fatigue, Ms Stephen-Smith urged Canberrans to stay within the health directions.
“Keep your distance. I know you want to hug your family members, we have all been deprived of that physical contact. Please hold off,” she said.
“Stick with it for another few weeks because that’s what will help protect all of us.”
The Scott’s Crossing Construction Site in Bunda Street has been updated to a close contact site for Wednesday between 6:45 am and 4:30 pm, Tuesday between 6.45 am and 4.30 pm and Monday between 6:45 am and 4:30 pm.
New casual contact sites include ALDI Chisholm, Woolworths Metro Franklin, Coles Belconnen Westfield and Woolworths Metro Belconnen.
There are monitor for symptoms sites in Belconnen, Canberra City, Charnwood, Florey, Kambah, Lyneham and Mitchell.
At 12 noon, ACT Health has reported low or no wait times at ACT testing sites.
UPDATED 12:30 pm: There are 38 new cases of COVID-19 in the ACT overnight, a significant reduction from the highs of the last two days.But Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith has warned Canberrans not to let their guard down over the long weekend and NRL Grand Final.
Twenty-four of the new cases are linked, 20 are household contacts. Fourteen cases are under investigation and 14 were in quarantine during their entire infectious period. At least 16 spent time in the community.
Fourteen people are hospitalised, with five in intensive care, three of whom require ventilation.
“While it is encouraging to see a slight reduction, or a reasonably significant reduction [in COVID cases], it’s still above what we’ve been seeing for the majority of this outbreak,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
Cases are largely related to essential workers, close contacts and household members, but Ms Stephen-Smith said that larger gatherings could spike case numbers, impacting larger numbers of households and endangering families and friends.
“We are aware that in the ACT that smaller gatherings that are perfectly legal have resulted in transmission. Don’t think it can’t happen to you,” she said.
Two more cases are associated with the London Circuit construction site and an associated site. There is also a new case associated with the Scotts Crossing construction site in Bunda St.
There are several cases in the Canberra health system, including one food services worker at the Canberra Hospital, an inpatient in Ward 14a, and a team member in Ward 12b.
Ms Stephen-Smith said that while investigations are ongoing, the cases don’t appear to be linked to initial cases in Ward 10a and there appears to be no additional spread.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said that the outbreak now totals 977 and there are 342 active cases.
Health authorities are conducting a “deep dive into the data” ahead of Tuesday’s epidemiological update. Dr Coleman said she was reassured that cases appear to be linked, but as numbers rise, so do the number of people potentially spreading infection.
“My honest feeling is that we won’t get below 20 again,” she said. “We are looking at [case numbers in] the 20s, 30s, 50s going forward.”
Yesterday, 2962 tests were carried out. There were 33 compliance checks and 1313 drivers were stopped. There were 20 directions to leave the ACT. One infringement notice and one caution were issued.
Ms Stephen-Smith warned that even if people are fully vaccinated, they must get tested if they are exposed via a close contact or have any symptoms.
“Vaccination protects against severe illness and hospitalisation and we have seen that playing out across the outbreaks here and in NSW and Victoria, but you can still catch the virus and pass it on to others,” she said.
“We are still working towards higher levels of full vaccination and there are still vulnerable members of the community including children who are not vaccinated and will not be eligible to be vaccinated for a while.”
On the vaccination front, 92.6 per cent of the 12-plus population have received their first dose of vaccine and 63.9 per cent of the eligible population are fully vaccinated.
She said there has been a strong push to address accessibility issues, including several in-reach clinics focussed on communities with barriers to accessing mainstream health services.
“The more opportunities we offer, the better the uptake,” she said.
These have included specialist schools, residential and community care programs, people with temporary living arrangements and the disability sector, a range of multicultural groups, and north and south side clinics for Canberra’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.
There will be 120 more appointments each week at the Weston Creek access and sensory clinic. One-third of people with existing appointments have been contacted to offer them an earlier option for the clinic, which will now operate five days per week from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm.
Carers can also be vaccinated at the same appointment and the clinic caters to people with disabilities and mental health issues. Bookings can be made via the COVID vaccination line, choosing the disability support option.
11.55 am: The ACT has recorded 38 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8 pm last night.
Yesterday there were 52 cases.
Of the new cases, 24 are linked to current exposure sites or identified close contacts; 14 are under early investigation.
Fourteen were in quarantine for the entirety of their infectious period but at least 16 spent part of their infectious period in the community.
There are 14 people in hospital with COVID, five in intensive care and three require ventilation.
A total of 2962 tests were conducted yesterday and there were 33 in-person compliance checks, 1313 driver stops and 20 people were directed to leave the ACT.
One infringement and one caution were issued.
NSW reported 667 new cases in the past 24 hours and 10 deaths.
Yesterday NSW had 813 cases and 10 deaths.
NSW Health has reported 981 COVID patients in hospital and 195 in intensive care.
Victoria has 1220 new COVID cases and three deaths.
Yesterday there were 1488 cases and two deaths.