UPDATED 4 pm: A major logistical operation to deliver hundreds of thousands of rapid antigen tests to schools and other essential services in the ACT began today.
The first lot of deliveries left the ESA training centre in Hume this afternoon to be delivered to schools where two kits per week will be distributed to students and staff.
The testing kits will first be distributed to early childhood centres and primary schools, and then high schools and colleges.
It’s hoped the majority of the tests will be delivered by the end of this week, Minister for Education Yvette Berry said today.
She reassured parents that the tests being distributed to schools are the lollipop saliva tests that do not require a nasal swab.
“This will make it so much easier for parents of young children or children with additional needs to conduct these tests themselves,” she said.
Minister for Emergency Services Mick Gentleman said the operation required, and will continue to require, a “mammoth effort” to be completed.
Hundreds of volunteers and staff from across the ACT Government and the ESA are involved in the operation.
The ACT has recorded 884 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.
There are now 73 people in hospital, including four in intensive care and one requiring ventilation.
Yesterday, there were 67 patients in hospital, including five in ICU and one being ventilated.
There were 896 new cases yesterday.
The latest cases have been identified by 648 positive PCR results and 236 rapid antigen tests, taking the number of active cases in the ACT to 4787 (2719 PCR and 2068 RAT).
All ACT Government testing clinics are open today and ACT Health said turnaround times for results are now between 24 and 48 hours.
The ACT’s 12-plus vaccination rate remains 98.6 per cent.
Over 40 per cent of those aged 18 and over have now received a booster shot (43.5 per cent), while just over 60 per cent (60.3 per cent) of the population aged five to 11 has received one dose.
Minister for Disability Emma Davidson told an ACT Legislative Assembly committee hearing on Tuesday (25 January) that the government will provide rapid antigen tests to disability and aged care support workers as well as other eligible service organisations.
The Federal Government supplies RATs to people in supported independent living but Ms Davidson said more people needed access to tests, especially support workers who need to enter people’s homes.
Other organisations that require access to tests include NGOs providing support to those experiencing homelessness and victims of domestic and family violence, Ms Davison told the committee.
But unlike the Federal Government announcements in the disability space which require people to source the tests themselves, the ACT Government will supply the kits directly so there is no need for competition in the private market.
So far, the distribution of free rapid antigen tests to eligible concession card holders is going well in the ACT, ACT Pharmacy Guild President Simon Blacker said.
On the first day of the scheme’s operation – Monday, 24 January – 21 pharmacies distributed around 8,000 rapid antigen tests.
Nationally, 700 000 tests were distributed through over 1500 pharmacies.
Mr Blacker also noted the new Findapharmacy resource – launched by the National Pharmacy Guild to help consumers find RATs in stores – is coping with pressure.
The page received over 2 million site visits on the first day it was live.
However, only around 10 pharmacies have been listed in the ACT as most pharmacies have limited stock in store.
Interstate, NSW has reported 29 deaths overnight and 17,316 new cases (7382 RATs, 9934 PCR).
Hospitalisations remain relatively steady – 2722 compared with 2794 the previous day. There are 181 people in ICUs around the state.
NSW Health says 36.2 per cent of the state’s eligible population has received a booster dose, and 93.9 per cent of the 16-plus population has received two shots.
In Victoria, 13,755 (7625 RATs and 6130 PCR) new cases have been reported, as well as 57 deaths.
There are now 1057 people hospitalised with the virus – down from 1089 reported yesterday. Of the state’s 12-plus population, 93 per cent is now fully vaccinated and 34 per cent of the state’s eligible population has received three doses of the vaccine.
More to come.