22 August 2021

UPDATED: ACT records eight new COVID-19 cases, Floriade cancelled

| Genevieve Jacobs and Dominic Giannini
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Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr at today’s COVID-19 briefing. Photo: Screenshot.

UPDATED 12:40 pm: The ACT has recorded eight new COVID-19 cases, all linked and all occurring in people who were already in quarantine. Two people are in hospital, but while both are COVID-19 positive, that is not the reason for their hospitalisation.

A new cut-off time for cases of 8:00 pm each night will be applied, and health authorities cautioned that today’s numbers may be artificially low as a consequence, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr said at the daily press briefing that “this is the lockdown working”.

However, Floriade and Nightfest have been cancelled, and Mr Barr said the only early path out of lockdown was a long run of days with zero cases.

“It is just not safe to operate in any capacity in these circumstances”, he said.

The encouraging ACT results come as NSW records 825 new cases, the highest daily total ever seen in Australia.

“We are seeing the alternate pathway. If people want that pathway, we follow the NSW playbook … I’m confident Canberrans don’t want that”, the Chief Minister said.

However, it appears the NSW Government is not repeating the Sydney mistakes in regional NSW, which was helpful for managing the Canberra region.

Echoing Mr Barr’s comments, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith was cautious about the current numbers, but said “this is the lockdown working, this is contact tracing working, this is isolation and quarantine working”.

Some new exposure sites are appearing post the start of lockdown, and Mr Barr and Ms Stephen-Smith both reiterated the need for ongoing caution, even as case numbers appear to be falling.

Positive COVID-19 cases are being cared for with a dedicated COVID-at-home care program being rolled out by ACT Health and Calvary Public. This includes virtual care and escalation pathways for people isolating at home. Positive cases are contacted daily to check on symptoms, patients have monitoring kits, and a doctor and nurse are on call 24 hours a day.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said that there are still three public transmission sites where there’s no confirmation of where the virus originated. Two of these were very early on in the pandemic progress – Assembly Bar and the Fiction nightclub – while the third is the the Downer Community Centre.

From this point onwards, the COVID-19 website will include a category called ‘investigation locations’. Dr Coleman said the category would enable ongoing contact investigations.

The median age of new cases has also risen slightly as some parents in quarantine with COVID-19 positive children and young people are being diagnosed.

Mr Barr said that he had raised significant concerns at National Cabinet yesterday about intentions to ease restrictions when the nation reaches 70 to 80 per cent vaccination coverage.

“I did so because it takes two to three weeks for vaccine to become effective,” he said. “You don’t get instant protection when the jab goes into your arm.

“This needs to be taken into account when we move from one stage to the next on the national plan. The effective vaccination plan will lag the headline indicator by two to three weeks.”

Mr Barr said it was also important to use up to date national population data that include younger cohorts as they become eligible for vaccination, including 12 to 15 year olds.

The ACT is working on a vaccination program for children and young people that will be underway before the end of the school year, depending on the availability of vaccines.

“I am hoping that we will well exceed the national vaccination rate and between now and then. When the nation reaches 70 to 80 per cent, our objective is to get there first and be well head of the rest of the nation,” Mr Barr said.

A total of 4683 tests were carried out across all sites yesterday and waiting times today are relatively short at all sites.

There are some changes to testing hours as targeted cohorts are directed towards some centres. This included a testing period this morning at Gold Creek allocated to young children and people with disabilities, which Ms Stephen-Smith said had been greatly appreciated by those children and their families.

While vaccination is not mandatory for health care workers, she said that the ACT’s health care, aged care and disability care workers were being strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and had been provided with a dedicated vaccination booking line.

ACT Policing say that compliance with restrictions continues to be excellent, although 11 people were directed to leave the ACT yesterday as police carried out almost 800 traffic stops.

UPDATED 11:55 am: The ACT has recorded eight new COVID-19 cases to 8:00 pm last night. All cases are linked.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said in the first week of the outbreak, all cases were infectious in the community, but at the moment, none are in the community.

He said it was a testament to the success of the ACT’s lockdown. He added that compliance was “excellent”.

Police conducted almost 800 traffic stops and there were only 11 directions for people to leave the ACT.

Yesterday, a total of 4683 tests were conducted across all ACT testing sites.

Earlier today, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklin announced 825 new cases and three deaths in the 24 hours to 8:00 pm Friday (20 August).

Sydney will remain in lockdown for at least one more month, masks are mandatory across the state and police have been given new powers to enforce lockdown.

9:35 am: COVID-19 testing for people with sensory needs or who have a disability or mobility issues will be available at the Gold Creek School Pop-up COVID-19 Testing Facility today in two tranches:

  • 9:00 am to 12:00 pm: Testing will be offered for children and young people (aged 2 and up) with sensory needs or who need additional support during testing.
  • 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm: Testing will be open to all people with disability or reduced mobility who require support to access testing.

The centre is located at 130 Kelleway Avenue, Nicholls.

9:00 am: The Chapman Primary after school care building, Bunnings Belconnen and a host of supermarkets have been listed as exposure sites as the number of locations across the ACT edges towards 300.

The new locations span Chapman, Charnwood, Weston Creek, Woden, Belconnen and Kingston.

Coles Gungahlin was listed as an exposure site last week and has now temporarily cancelled click and collect*.

In an SMS to customers at around 8:30 pm on Friday (20 August), ColesOnline wrote: “Unfortunately due to your fulfilment store (Gungahlin) being identified as a COVID exposure site, your order placed cannot be fulfilled. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

“Any pre-authorisation holding charge will be released back into your account – timeframe depends on your bank issuer. Items have been placed back into your trolley – if you require assistance with re-ordering, please call 1800 455 400.”

A full list of the exposure sites can be found at covid19.act.gov.au.

Twelve new cases were announced yesterday (20 August), bringing the total number of active cases in the ACT to 94.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman will update today’s case numbers at 11:45 am.

*CORRECTION: This article originally referenced home deliveries. The cancellation only refers to Click and collect from Coles Gungahlin.

More to come.

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Stephen Saunders4:22 pm 21 Aug 21

What a week. The “Prime Minister for NSW’ bullies the states to follow the lowest common denominator of Sydney, then blindsides them with a fake announcement about Pfizer for young people.

He’ll never change. He’s unfit to lead. He’s got to go.

Capital Retro9:54 pm 21 Aug 21

I’ll take that as a comment.

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