19 April 2022

ACT records 816 new COVID-19 cases; relaxed close contact rules to be 'as simple as possible'

| Lottie Twyford
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Rachel Stephen-smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said close contact requirements may be relaxed. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

The Territory has recorded 816 cases of COVID-19, and health authorities have confirmed an announcement on the relaxation of quarantine requirements for household and high-risk contacts will likely be made later this week.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith today reiterated that the ACT wants to relax these requirements in unison with the larger eastern seaboard states of NSW and Victoria, and it is unlikely to move alone or ahead of the other jurisdictions.

“We will look at our own circumstances and the advice of our own Chief Health Officer as we make these decisions, but we will also be really cognisant of what NSW and Victoria are doing and try to maintain consistency to the greatest possible extent where it makes sense,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

Household contacts, as well as high-risk contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases are, for the most part, currently required to remain in quarantine for seven days even if they are asymptomatic and can return negative rapid antigen test results.

Ms Stephen-Smith said authorities are considering how this could be adjusted and whether there are other restrictions or “appropriate precautions” that could replace the need for quarantine.

She said this could include requiring people to wear a mask when out in the community, taking rapid antigen tests before entering particular settings, and being banned from entering high-risk facilities.

Sir Robert Menzies statue wearing a mask.

Household contacts of positive COVID-19 cases may need to take additional precautions such as wearing a mask in public. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

While Ms Stephen-Smith acknowledged some frustration around any quarantine requirements, she said the household remains the most significant or high-risk environment for COVID-19 transmission, hence the current rules.

“But as we have moved more and more towards living with COVID-19 – the disease is out in the community – we are also seeing the impact on the workforce and so we do need to balance those risks,” she explained.

Ms Stephen-Smith noted that authorities are currently working through how the new guidelines could be made “as clear as possible” for people.

“The more complex we make the rules, the more difficult it is for people to understand and comply with the new arrangements,” she said.

She further acknowledged circumstances where household contacts would need to remain in quarantine with the positive case, particularly if they were required to care for them or if they too displayed symptoms.

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Locally, there are now 64 people in hospital with COVID-19. Two people are in the ICU, with one person being ventilated.

Yesterday, there were 58 COVID-19 patients in the Territory’s hospitals, including two in the ICU, one of whom required ventilation.

The 816 new cases (320 PCR, 496 RAT) take the local active caseload to 5097 (2637 PCR, 2460 RAT).

The Territory recorded 734 new COVID-19 infections yesterday.

Ms Stephen-Smith said daily caseloads are expected to remain between the 600 and 1000 mark for the coming weeks before potentially increasing slightly as winter rolls in.

“It points to the fact that the daily case number isn’t that significant … it’s the trajectory,” she explained.

For the first time since the ACT went into lockdown in August last year, no COVID-19 case numbers were publicly reported by ACT Health on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Caseloads for both days will be recorded in the department’s weekly epidemiological report, Ms Stephen-Smith said.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 94,486 (59,468 PCR and 35,018 RAT) cases of COVID-19 reported in the ACT.

The double-dose vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population is now 96.7 per cent, and 74.5 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have now received a booster.

Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 61.8 per cent have received two doses of vaccine.

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Interstate, NSW has reported eight deaths overnight and 10,856 new cases of COVID-19.

There are now 1623 people in hospital with the virus and 70 people in ICUs around the state.

Victoria has reported seven deaths overnight and an additional 8976 cases of COVID-19.

There are now 443 people hospitalised with the virus, while 31 patients are in the state’s intensive care units.

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Yeah may as well relax the rules, for which enabled the destruction of the economy, why have the rules in the first place. Who voted for these fools

My sister is interstate and after her Covid, when allowed back into the community, she was required to always wear a mask and to maintain strict hygiene protocols for a week.

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