22 February 2022

ANU cluster sits at over 200 cases as ACT records 583 new COVID-19 infections

| Lottie Twyford
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Australian National University

There are now at least 200 cases of COVID-19 in student residences at the ANU. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

As the ACT records 583 new cases of COVID-19, more than 200 people across 12 student residences at the Australian National University have been confirmed as COVID-19 cases following O-Week activities last week.

Any student who has tested positive for the virus is being moved to a dedicated quarantine facility on campus where they will be assisted to safely isolate for eight days. Meals will be provided, as will wellbeing, academic and medical support and classes – which resumed yesterday (21 February) – will be accessible online.

“These facilities have been previously used by the University and have been identified as appropriate for self-isolation after consultation with ACT Health,” a spokesperson for the university said.

All residents will be tested every 48 hours this week after residents were asked to complete a first rapid antigen test yesterday morning.

As of yesterday evening, ANU was still awaiting results from a batch of testing.

A university spokesperson said cases had been expected and the situation was “unsurprising given restrictions are lifting in the ACT and we have had a full calendar of campus and social activities for O-Week.”

Last week’s O-week was the first fully in-person and open event in two years.

Traveller at Canberra Airport

International students were locked out of Australia for almost two years. Photo: Region Media.

International and interstate students arrived in Canberra throughout late-January and early-February ahead of orientation activities and the beginning of semester one.

The spokesperson said the university is prepared for the cases and has protocols to support COVID-positive residents.

“We are also well placed and prepared to help prevent potential further transmission in our residences as well as the wider community,” they said.

In-person classes will go ahead as planned for students who are not required to self-isolate.

ACT Health is working closely with the university to manage the situation and provide public health services as needed.

ANU made a commitment earlier in the year to provide free rapid antigen tests (RATs) and face masks to students and staff. Yesterday, additional supplies were provided to student residences so residents can be tested every 48 hours this week.

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The latest data from ACT Health indicates 583 new cases of COVID-19 and there are now 41 people in hospital, including one in intensive care. No one is being ventilated.

The new cases have been reported today from 274 PCR and 309 RAT results and take the ACT’s active caseload to 2786 (1223 PCR and 1563 RAT).

There have been 45,662 (32,877 PCR and 12,785 RAT) cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic reported in the ACT.

The vaccination rate for the ACT’s 12-plus population remains 98.6 per cent, and 65.3 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have received a booster.

Of ACT residents aged 5 to 11, 77.6 per cent have received one dose.

According to the latest weekly epidemiological update (7 to 13 February), the ACT’s rolling mean has stabilised to around 400 cases.

As previously reported, the return to school did drive cases up slightly as expected, and the PCR positivity increased from 13 per cent to 15 per cent over the week.

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Interstate, NSW has reported 14 deaths overnight and 8752 new cases (6036 RAT and 2716 PCR).

There are now 1293 people in hospital with the virus and 71 people in ICUs around the state.

Victoria has reported 14 deaths overnight and an additional 6786 cases of COVID-19 from 5042 RATs and 1744 PCR tests.

There are now 345 people hospitalised with the virus in the state.

Mandatory mask rules in Victoria will be rolled back from 11:59 pm on Friday (25 February). Masks will only be required in indoor settings such as public transport and hospitals. Retail and hospitality workers will also still need to wear a mask, as will primary students from year three upwards.

High school students, however, will be allowed to remove their masks.

Mask rules will still apply for people working indoors at events with more than 30,000 people.

An announcement from the ACT Government about changes to mask rules is expected this week. Last week, a significant tranche of the ACT’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions was eased after similar NSW and Victoria announcements.

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Capital Retro12:00 pm 22 Feb 22

I’m amazed that Orientation Week (O for zero) was allowed again. It should be banned permanently. All it does is introduce young people to alcohol and other stuff.

Let young people be young people – you were one of them a long time ago too.

For most, O-week is a positive experience (like anything there are exceptions). And of course there are cases where things can go too far, or bad outcomes occur. But I can’t see any genuine basis on which to ban such events in any form.

Let misery come to young people when it will come to them – lets not enforce it by taking away their enjoyment of that period of their life.

That isn’t to say that such events made a lot of sense in the 2022 context, given everything going on….. but that is a current environment specific challenge, not driven by the event itself.

Capital Retro1:35 pm 22 Feb 22

Yeah, nothing is more enjoyable than getting legless and spewing your gut full of discounted beer up.

Name me two positive O-week experiences?

>Name me two positive O-week experiences?

1. Getting legless with your new mates
2. Spewing up a gut full of cheap beer with your new mates

Stop being such a grump Retro, go have a drink with a mate.

Capital Retro3:53 pm 22 Feb 22

It’s hard to have a drink with a mate when they aren’t around anymore:

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6174635/dark-side-of-the-lake/

That might have been what O-Week was solely comprised of in 1566, but at most unis it is far from the be all and end all – even if social events are for many the highlight.

As a new student I went along to the ANU Orientation Week and checked out a number of stalls set up by sporting, social, political and religious clubs. I signed up with two sporting clubs and the next year with the another. Had trips away with them, made new friends and learnt new skills, like sailing and mountaineering. So very positive experiences from O week. Those days long ago before Uni fees came in and students could drink to excess and waste time are long gone. Uni students are now more sober and deradicalised. There is a greater proportion of motivated overseas students paying high fees that has changed student culture.

There was once a complete alcohol ban in Canberra. All that happened was it became Queanbeyan’s problem. There’s a pub named after the person responsible for that little fiasco.

America tried prohibition. I’m sure the word “speakeasy” means something to you.

Sure, alcohol abuse is a problem. Banning it is unlikely to solve it, just push it underground where we get to pretend it doesn’t exist. What needs to happen is a change in our culture’s relationship with it. That’s not going to change by banning alcohol, or banning the events where alcohol is served.

Bush walk up Black Mountain, trip to inflatables waterpark at the Lake. No alcohol involved. Great for kids to meet new people when they are living away from home for the first time.

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