UPDATED 2:30 pm: The ACT Government will not ‘scrap’ the Check In CBR app, despite the fact it’s currently defunct as health authorities are no longer contact tracing.
Instead, it’s likely the scope of the check-in system will be narrowed so it will only be required in high-risk venues or large, unticketed events where COVID-19 transmission is likely, Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said this afternoon.
The list of exactly what venues will be considered high-risk is still being refined, although it’s likely nightclubs – when they can operate as such – will be considered.
“The technical work is being done in the background to allow automation of notifications to let people know they have been in a high-risk location,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
She argued it’s still a “useful” tool so individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 could notify those they have been with.
“It might not have been in their calendar and they might not have thought they’d been with a particular person.”
Right now, the Health Minister said it wouldn’t be fair to fine either businesses or individuals who did not comply with check-in requirements. She did say very few fines and prosecutions had been issued or undertaken in the ACT throughout the pandemic, noting authorities had largely taken an educative approach rather than a punitive one.
Ms Stephen-Smith rubbished what she called an “astonishing call” from the Canberra Liberals earlier today to scrap the app.
“They clearly have not learned from the two years of the pandemic that things are constantly changing and that we need to be ready for the next wave,” she said.
“Everybody – Commonwealth, state, and territory – has been talking about the fact that we can expect the next wave of COVID-19 through winter.
“We need to be planning for that,” Ms Stephen-Smith stated. “It’s almost like Elizabeth Lee is about to come out and say the pandemic is over – you know, Coe 2.0, but it’s not.”
Newly appointed Opposition spokesperson for health Leanne Castley said Canberrans are frustrated with using an app that no longer serves its purpose.
“The data is not being used for the purpose Canberrans were told it was, so it’s only right to stop the mandatory check-ins,” she said in a statement.
Conversations are ongoing about how the app will be used in the future, but the Health Minister said it was still too premature to dump the use of QR codes entirely.
“We need to keep Check In CBR but use it differently in the future,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
Meanwhile, of the 9000 16 and 17-year-olds in the ACT, 8000 of them are already eligible for their booster dose after this morning’s ATAGI announcement. Ms Stephen-Smith said appointments are available as early as today for these people, but no walk-in boosters are possible at this time.
She once again acknowledged the booster program for the general adult population has slowed considerably and urged eligible Canberrans to come forward for their booster.
11:30 am: ATAGI, the national vaccine advisory body, has approved COVID-19 booster doses for 16 to 17-year-olds. This cohort will be eligible for their third dose three months after receiving their second shot.
It comes as the ACT records 529 new cases of COVID-19 – down slightly from yesterday’s 549. Daily caseloads have stabilised significantly in recent days, as predicted by health authorities who said last week the ACT had likely reached the peak of the Omicron outbreak.
However, an increase in cases is expected now that school students have returned to on-campus learning, and there will be a significantly higher level of surveillance.
Locally, there are now 63 people in hospital, including one in intensive care who requires ventilation. Yesterday there were 61 people in hospital and one in the ICU being ventilated.
The latest cases have been identified from 317 positive PCR results and 212 rapid antigen tests, taking the number of active cases in the ACT to 3183 (1963 PCR and 1220 RAT).
The Territory’s 12-plus vaccination rate remains steady at 98.6 per cent.
Over half (51.8 per cent) of the Territory’s 18-plus population has now received a booster shot, while over 70 per cent (71.2 per cent) of the population aged five to 11 has received one dose.
Amid some concerns about the ACT’s booster rate stalling, Region Media understands an announcement about the addition of the Territory’s 16 to 17-year-olds to the vaccination program is expected later today.
ATAGI this morning advised the Federal Government that a third dose of Pfizer is safe for this cohort. It will also cover teenagers who received their second dose when they were aged 15 but are now 16.
The gap between second and third doses will be three months, as it is for adults. Nationally, 90 per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds have received two doses of vaccine.
It is estimated 60 per cent of this cohort will become eligible for a booster this week. From today, booster doses can be administered at pharmacies and GPs, providing appointments are available.
ATAGI is also considering adjusting its definition of ‘fully vaccinated’. It may replace the term with ‘up to date with vaccination’ and redefine it to include booster shots.
Interstate, NSW has reported 38 deaths overnight and 12,632 new cases (7147 RAT and 5485 PCR).
Hospitalisations remain steady at 2578, down from 2749. There are 160 people in ICUs around the state, down from 170 in the previous reporting period.
NSW Health says 41.7 per cent of the state’s eligible population has received a booster dose, and 94 per cent of the 16-plus population has received two shots.
Victoria has reported 34 deaths overnight and an additional 12,157 cases of COVID-19 from 6569 RATs and 5588 PCR tests.
There are now 752 people hospitalised with the virus – down from 768 reported yesterday. Of the state’s 12-plus population, 93 per cent is now fully vaccinated and 41 per cent of the state’s eligible population has received three doses of the vaccine.