22 April 2022

UPDATED: School mask mandate ends but masks staying put (for at least two weeks)

| Lottie Twyford
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Kerryn Coleman

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said it was her view a mask mandate was no longer a proportionate response to the ACT’s current COVID situation. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

UPDATED 5:15 pm: The Territory’s school mask mandate will officially end at 11:59 pm on Monday, 25 April.

However, settings in ACT public schools will remain the same as they were for term one for at least the first two weeks of term two while consultation with unions and other key stakeholders gets underway.

This consultation will also cover whether or not students who are deemed household contacts but are asymptomatic will be able to attend public schools or not.

From 11:59 pm on Tuesday (26 April), asymptomatic household or close contacts will no longer be required to undergo seven days of quarantine. However, they will still be subject to risk-mitigation practices, including the need to wear a mask indoors in certain settings and return negative COVID-19 test results if attending a place of work or study.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said it was her view that a school mask mandate was no longer a proportionate response to the pandemic situation.

“Taking into account our improved understanding of the severity of the Omicron variant, our community vaccination coverage and broader mask-wearing requirements across other settings in the ACT, now is an appropriate time for this change to be implemented,” she said in a statement.

People are still encouraged to wear a mask in indoor settings where social distancing cannot be maintained.

READ ALSO Three months on, Gloria’s still breathless but hopeful new long COVID clinic can help

The requirement to check-in using the Check In CBR app will also be dropped, but schools are asked to leave the QR codes up in case people wish to use them voluntarily.

Non-government schools will confirm their arrangements for term two with their own staff members and school community, and public schools will communicate directly with their school communities if any changes are made to safety measures.

“COVID safety measures in ACT public schools will stay the same as they were in term one for at least the first two weeks of term two. This means that public school staff and secondary students will continue to wear masks, the Check In CBR app will continue to be required for visitors, and household close contacts will not be able to attend public school sites, even if they are asymptomatic,” ACT Education Director-General Katy Haire confirmed in a statement.

Vaccination centre

The AIS mass vaccination clinic will reduce its operating hours from next Tuesday, 26 April. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

12 pm: A man in his 90s has died with COVID-19, taking the ACT’s pandemic death toll to 49. ACT Health has extended its condolences to the man’s family and friends.

The Territory has reported 1041 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8 pm yesterday and another COVID-19 health facility is reducing its operating hours.

From Tuesday (26 April), the AIS mass vaccination clinic will be open from 8 am to 5 pm, with the last walk-ins accepted at 4:45 pm. The clinic, which opened in September 2021, was previously open from 8 am to 8:30 pm daily and could administer 24,000 vaccine doses a week.

Anyone with an upcoming appointment that needs to be changed will be contacted.

Rachel Stephen-Smith wearing COVID-19 vaccine socks

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith showed off her vaccine and COVID-19 socks in June last year. Photo: Region Media.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith yesterday said the change reflected a decrease in demand for vaccinations, particularly outside business hours.

But it would also allow Canberra Health Services to redeploy its staff members to areas currently experiencing high demand.

“Our hospital system, in particular, is experiencing very high demand at the moment and workforce pressures as well,” she said. “We may see some increased demand for some of our services.”

Earlier this week, it was announced that the Garran COVID-19 surge centre would reduce its operating hours to 8:30 am to 5 pm daily. It previously operated from 7:30 am to 10 pm daily.

Ms Stephen-Smith said most people were attending the centres during business hours, and she hoped the changes would cause minimal disruption to most Canberrans.

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Locally, there are now 57 people in hospital with COVID-19. Two people are in the ICU, but neither requires ventilation.

The ACT recorded 1265 infections yesterday, and there were 61 people with COVID-19 in hospital.

The 1041 new cases (609 PCR, 432 RAT) take the local active caseload to 5676 (2899 PCR, 2777 RAT).

Since the pandemic began, there have been 97,825 (61,339 PCR, 36,486 RAT) cases of COVID-19 reported in the ACT.

The double-dose vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population remains 96.8 per cent, and 74.8 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have now received a booster.

Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 63.2 per cent have received two doses of vaccine.

READ ALSO Three months on, Gloria’s still breathless but hopeful new long COVID clinic can help

Interstate, NSW has reported 13 deaths overnight and 15,283 new cases of COVID-19.

There are now 1632 people in hospital with the virus and 63 people in ICUs around the state.

Victoria has reported 16 deaths overnight and an additional 9439 cases of COVID-19.

There are now 428 people hospitalised with the virus, while 30 patients are in the state’s intensive care units.

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