29 August 2021

UPDATED: ACT records 13 new cases, high levels of vaccination at public housing exposure site

| Dominic Giannini and Genevieve Jacobs
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr

There are 13 new COVID-19 cases in the ACT, a relief for the ACT after yesterday’s high total. Image: Screenshot.

UPDATED 2:10 pm: More than 70 per cent of Ainslie Village residents have had at least one jab as the government continues to operate in-reach testing and vaccination programs due to the vulnerabilities of people in public housing.

The entire village will now become an exposure site after a positive case attended the complex on August 25 and 26 there. ACT Health has since begun testing all on-site staff and residents.

Ainslie Village is the second public housing complex that has been visited by a positive case after a person attended Condamine Court while infectious.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that while the vaccination levels at the village were high following previous in-reach programs, there were still more residents who needed to receive a jab.

“These, amongst other risk points across Canberra and across Australia, are the reason there is caution about making too many big steps (towards eased restrictions), particularly at 70 per cent vaccination,” he said.

“The data that has been released shows a very strong correlation between vaccination rates and the age profile and socio-economic status of a particular local government area.”

The government already has one eye on the rollout of booster shots once vaccination targets are reached to maintain herd immunity within the community.

The new Pfizer hub at the AIS, which is due to open on Friday (3 September), will have the capacity to administer 24,000 doses a week but it will take some months before the supply of the vaccine will allow the centre to operate to its full extent.

“The vaccination program is going to be one continuous stream of activity,” Mr Barr said.

“Once we have gotten to the point where we have vaccinated everyone who wanted to be fully vaccinated, we are going to have to step almost immediately into booster shots for those who were first vaccinated many months ago.

“It is not just about hitting those 70, 80, 90 and 95 per cent targets, it is about maintaining that level of community vaccination into the future.”

Mr Barr flagged that Pfizer could become available to people over the age of 60 – who are currently being shepherded towards the AstraZeneca vaccine – at the stage where supply had provided anyone who wanted to get vaccinated the opportunity to do so.

This would be at the tail end of the ACT’s vaccination program, he said.

One million doses of Moderna are due to arrive in Australia in September and will initially only be administered through eligible pharmacies. Three million doses are then due to arrive in the country in October, November and December.

Pharmacies will be able to administer the vaccine to people over the age of 18 with informed consent.

But the government continues to prioritise the vaccination of eligible Canberrans as the Territory’s outbreak grows and daily case numbers in Sydney reach a new record of 1218 today (29 August).

The government also continues to assist the Commonwealth in vaccinating residential aged care staff in the Territory, who will need to have received at least one jab by 17 September.

Just over 82 per cent of residential aged care staff had received at least one dose as of 25 August. Almost 93 per cent of residential aged care residents had received at least one dose and 82 per cent were fully vaccinated as of the same date.

UPDATED 12:30 pm: There’s been some relief as today’s new COVID cases total 13, down from the 26 cases reported yesterday. Chief Minister Andrew Barr said at today’s press briefing that all are linked to existing cases or clusters.

Of the 13 new cases, 12 are household contacts and one comes from a known cluster. Eight have been quarantined for the entire infectious entire period, posing no risk to the community but five of the new cases have been infectious in the community.

In a new development a confirmed case has visited the community housing at Ainslie Village while unknowingly infectious. The entire village will now become an exposure site after the person spent August 25 and 26 there.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said that a multi agency response team moved very quickly to communicate with residents and begin testing of all staff and residents on site.

Ten people remain hospitalised, one of whom remains in intensive care. All patients are unvaccinated.

Dr Coleman said that of the total 250 cases in the outbreak, 20 have now recovered.

There are 800 self-identified close contacts which is a significant decline from last week’s peak of about 18,000.

The Mirchi restaurant at Ngunnawal has been upgraded to a close contact site and the Bright Bees early childhood centre now has 26 associated cases. There are 181 current exposure sites.

Mr Barr said that 3650 tests had been carried out and that waiting times are low at most centres. Vaccination rates among the community are steadily rising with 65 per cent of the 16-plus ACT population having had at least one dose of vaccine, and 41.2 per cent of the 16-plus population fully vaccinated.

“Our intention is to vaccinate as many people as possible. Our intention is to be nation-leading, that is why we have stood up the mass vaccination capability at the AIS arena”, Mr Barr said.

The hub will be able to provide 24,000 vaccinations weekly once vaccine supplies are available.

More than 1200 cases were recorded in NSW and COVID fragments have been detected in sewage at Cooma.

Mr Barr has responded strongly to continued lobbying from the construction industry, including from Master Builders Australia, regarding residential sites where activity cannot resume yet.

While the MBA and others were entitled to advocate, he said decisions would be made on public health grounds for the good of the whole community, not for individual sectors.

“If the entire system degenerates into who can shout the loudest we might as well all give up and go home. That is not the situation that will shift the current restrictions. What will shift the situation is low case numbers,” he said.

Mr Barr said that he had received “thousands of representations” regarding the residential construction centre, but pointed to what he described as a wide range of attitudes to safety and compliance across the industry ranging from excellent to “some in the industry who think the whole thing is optional”.

“My responsibilities extend beyond the residential construction sector,” Mr Barr said.

“If we make decisions based on who sends a mean tweet we are in a really bad state”.

UPDATED 11:50 am: Chief Minister Andrew Barr has told today’s press briefing that the ACT recorded 13 new COVID-19 cases following yesterday’s tally of 26. All of these are linked to existing cases or clusters. Five have been infectious in the community. Ten people are now hospitalised with one remaining in intensive care.

More to come.

9:25 am: Bunnings Gungahlin, a construction site in the city and the National Health Co-op Macquarie have all been added to the list of exposure locations overnight.

The updated list came just over a day after Chief Minister Andrew Barr tightened rules around shopping at hardware stores after 19,000 people checked into hardware stores in a single day.

Anyone at the Bunnings store in Gungahlin on Tuesday, 24 August, between 11:30 am and 12:45 pm is considered a casual contact.

Anyone who was on the ground floor, level one or level two at the construction site at 12 Moore Street in the city between 6:30 am and 8:50 am on Wednesday, 11 August is considered a casual contact, as are visitors to the National Health Co-op Macquarie between 4 pm and 5 pm on Monday, 16 August.

Other casual exposure locations include Woolworths Dickson between 6 pm and 7:30 pm on Tuesday, 17 August, and Coles Amaroo between 8:40 am and 10:00 am on Sunday, 22 August.

The Mirchi Indian restaurant in Ngunnawal between 4 pm and 10:30 pm on Tuesday, 24 August, was also designated a close contact site.

There are currently three cases associated with the Indian restaurant, which became the Territory’s eleventh site of community transmission.

A full list of exposure locations is listed at www.covid19.act.gov.au.

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Well, that is new.
Having to forever maintain 70-95% community vaccination targets through continuous booster shots into the future is intrusive, unprecedented, unacceptable and unworkable. Unless everyone gets booster shots to maintain targets are we to continuously revert to lockdowns? Barr has lost the plot. The European model is to deal with it and let people get on with life.

Presumably after a few years a form of herd immunity will build up so it will become like a flu shot (and most likely incorporated in that shot) where most will get a shot and others won’t.

I’d argue that once the initial levels are reached and vaccine supply is no longer an issue, then maintenance of immunity through boosters is an individual responsibility. Grown ups can make their own arrangements for them, like flu or other vaccinations, and take responsibility for their childrens’.

Expecting “grown ups” to be responsible is a big ask. 19,000 visiting at one Bunnings store (during a day), during a lockdown, doing “essential” shopping. Protestors marching during lockdown and so many people not even covering their nose when wearing a mask. Then there’s the people wearing masks with one-way values, so they can exhale freely.

Kerry Staples-Wray1:28 pm 29 Aug 21

Why has it taken 2 1/2 weeks to identify a hairdresser in Phillip as a close contact?

Maybe someone has got Covid recently and they have worked backwards through contact tracing and found a link to someone at/from the hairdressers.

If you look at that list as it comes out they often add places a week after the fact and again presumable you that’s because they are working back through the chain.

I’m curious how Canturf can be considered an essential business? Especially when the bulk of their business is delivery or trade which isn’t operating.

Capital Retro11:55 am 29 Aug 21

Good point JC.

Bunnings sells an “imported” turf and as I understand, this can be purchased if available, by tradespeople who are established Bunnings customers.

Perhaps Canturf is being granted a competitive concession but turf certainly isn’t an essential service.

They would fall under hardware and building supplies, which is why they are open.

Pretty hard for the government to make criteria that would cover every business although you’re right that it does seem a bit silly to think they are “essential”

Capital Retro1:32 pm 29 Aug 21

Turf at Bunnings is sold from the nursery department, however.

Yeah bunnings does sell a a turf type that isn’t really suited to Canberra. They also sell seed which isn’t suited to here either, though last time I was in the grass care isle (many months ago) I noticed they sold some Canturf seed. At a price that is about 1/3rd more than Corkhill Brothers sells it for.

Anyway just thought it was intersting. Oh and chewy my understanding was the rules were building supply shops were open to sell essential supplies to make urgent repairs.

I wouldn’t call repairing a lawn as essential under that criteria and any businesses doing that kind of work would be shut down too.

Anyway just seemed odd. Been a few other oddities too. Ice cream shops have come up a few times. Begs question why going out for an ice cream is essential too.

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