15 March 2022

ACT records 38th COVID death, passes 60,000 cases; Barr defends 'cautious' quarantine path

| Lottie Twyford
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Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT’s health care system is preparing for an expected increase in demand this winter. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

The ACT has recorded another death with COVID-19 and 786 new cases overnight.

A woman in her 90s has become the 38th person to die with the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, National Cabinet – which met on Friday – has tasked the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) with providing individual advice to each state and territory about isolation rules for close contacts.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he will wait for further health advice before making any announcements on the matter, unlike other jurisdictions and the Commonwealth which have foreshadowed scrapping quarantine requirements for contacts entirely.

“The point I have made is that things can change very quickly and we need to be able to respond very quickly,” he said this morning.

“It is very sensible to be prudent and cautious and to not make grandiose sweeping statements that the Prime Minister has been prone to doing.”

In a statement released following National Cabinet, Mr Barr confirmed the ACT is readying itself for “an expected increase in demand” on its healthcare system over the winter months.

“The ACT may need to tighten health measures in response to a new COVID-19 variant, particularly if increased transmission leads to pressure on health system capacity. Any new restrictions will be proportionate to the level of risk, with a focus on reducing impacts on our hospital and public health systems and protecting vulnerable Canberrans,” he said.

“Should the situation deteriorate, we will move promptly to respond. As we have seen throughout the pandemic, it would be too late to introduce stronger measures if our hospital system is overwhelmed.”

Health authorities are already warning that this year’s flu season will be significantly worse than in 2020 and 2021 when international borders were largely closed. This, coupled with a new variant or surge in cases, could prove difficult to manage.

Mr Barr said government communications will be encouraging Canberrans to get the influenza vaccine in the coming months.

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As reported on Friday, the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron is expected to become the dominant strain in the Territory. However, while cases are expected to increase to an average of 800 cases a day, authorities don’t expect this to translate to an increase in hospitalisations.

Currently, there are 40 people in the Territory’s hospitals, including four in ICU and none requiring ventilation. Yesterday, there were 38 people in hospital.

Since the pandemic began, 60,654 (40,723 PCR and 19,931 RAT) cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the ACT.

The 786 new cases (347 PCR and 439 RAT) reported today take the total number of active cases in the ACT to 3896 (1871 PCR and 2025 RAT).

The full vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population is 93.8 per cent, and 70.7 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have received a booster.

Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 18.3 per cent have received two doses.

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Interstate, NSW has reported six deaths overnight and 10,689 new cases.

There are now 1032 people in hospital with the virus and 38 people in ICUs around the state.

Victoria has reported four deaths overnight and an additional 7460 cases of COVID-19.

There are now 197 people hospitalised with the virus and 24 patients in the state’s intensive care units.

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