Chief Minister Andrew Barr has welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement that an additional 1 million Moderna doses from European Union members are due to arrive in Australia in the coming week.
The Moderna doses will be directed to local pharmacies. They will begin to receive them within a fortnight.
The extra doses will boost the ACT’s vaccination capacity. Last week the ACT administered 44,000 jabs and is continuing to ramp up after extra Pfizer supply arrived from a number of Commonwealth deals.
The extra Pfizer doses have already brought forward the date the ACT is expected to reach its 80 per cent double dose threshold from mid-November to late October.
Mr Barr is due to outline the Territory’s roadmap out of the current lockdown on Tuesday (14 September) but said the plan is based on the immediate term.
He said further details about the ACT’s long-term strategy after the 70 and 80 per cent double dose thresholds are met would be informed by upcoming National Cabinet deliberations and updates to the one-page national plan.
“The national plan is a very good plan [but its] weakness is that there is a lot of somewhat vague dot points that still have ‘to be determined’ after them,” he said.
Focus this week has been on the NSW roadmap out of the current outbreak, which outlined more freedoms for fully vaccinated people once the 70 per cent threshold was reached. Modelling is predicting case numbers and hospitalisations will peak in the coming weeks.
Mr Barr said that while the ACT would need to base some of its public policy measures on what was happening in the surrounding regions, NSW rarely considered the Territory’s situation when deciding to move ahead.
“I do not think the NSW Government pays too much attention to the ACT, to be frank. When we seek to engage with them, it is relevant to the Canberra region, but what drives their decision making is Sydney and, to a lesser extent, Newcastle and Wollongong.
“An observation that has been made is that is what N-S-W stands for – Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong,” Mr Barr joked.
The ACT Government has also sought assurances that NSW’s health system will be able to handle the expected increase in hospitalisations as the state begins to ease restrictions. But the ACT’s plan has considered the impact of severely ill patients needing to be transported to the Canberra hospital from smaller, regional hospitals like Queanbeyan and Bega, Mr Barr said.
“That is lessened by good public health and social messages in the regions,” he said.
Mr Barr said NSW would not be adhering to the national plan if they moved ahead before the national average reached the same threshold.
“There is a lot of focus on what NSW will do when they reach 70 per cent,” he said.
“They are entitled to make changes to their local restrictions as they have been doing, and that is obviously their purview entirely, but the national plan is very clear that the nation needs to reach [those] thresholds.”
ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman would not comment when asked whether she was concerned that NSW’s approach was too blase following reports that NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant wanted the state to wait to ease restrictions until after the 85 per cent vaccination threshold was reached.
“My job is to protect the ACT community, and part of that is keeping an eye on the conditions in the surrounding area,” she explained.
“We work very closely with our Southern NSW Public Health Unit colleagues and are very in sync with what the conditions are and how we can continue to work together to protect the ACT community.”
UPDATED 12:30 pm: There are 15 new cases of COVID-19 in the ACT overnight, including a single case at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, where health staff say all possible contacts have been identified.
The positive diagnosis was made during routine admission procedure. Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman told today’s COVID briefing this means the prisoner has been in isolation for their entire time at the prison.
Eight of the new cases are linked, but just five were in quarantine during their entire infectious period. At least nine spent part of their infectious period in the community.
Ten people are in hospital, including three in intensive care, one of whom requires ventilation.
The youngest hospital patient is under 12, and the oldest is in their 70s. As has been the case throughout the outbreak, the significant majority of hospital cases are wholly unvaccinated.
There are now 493 cases in the outbreak, 239 of which are active.
Three detainees, a number of ACT Policing officers and watch house staff have also been identified as contacts of the AMC detainee. Acting Commissioner Ray Johnson said the positive case also passed through the court cell complex but was not in court.
Dr Coleman said the Justice health team hold weekly clinics at the AMC and 74 per cent of detainees have received their first dose, while 55 per cent are fully vaccinated as part of comprehensive operational plans for high-risk environments.
There are now 880 close contacts and no additional public transmission sites, although one new case is associated with the Busy Bees early learning centre cluster.
Testing numbers dropped yesterday to 2406 tests and Chief Minister Andrew Barr said authorities want that number to be over 3000 each day.
He also expressed frustration at the small number of businesses where staff are not fully compliant with public health directives.
“I remind businesses that one of the things we are striving for is to allow you to operate and trade, but part of this is you have to have staff wearing masks properly,” Mr Barr said.
“What we’re experiencing is not that businesses need to be told multiple times, but as compliance teams move around the city … there is a continuing theme that is largely [related to] mask-wearing.
“When businesses are advised, ‘hang on, you are not doing this properly’, return visits that are random and focussed on non-complying businesses are finding higher level of compliance as a result.
“But this far into the pandemic and lockdown, it’s a source of frustration,” the Chief Minister said. He warned that repeat offenders face significant fines and ultimately being shut down.
Mr Barr said that warm spring weather has brought many people out of their homes, but he advised everyone to keep their distance from other groups and wear masks.
“Getting out is great – but gathering too close and not wearing masks isn’t. The whole point of a lockdown is to reduce the risk of transmission. Transmission happens when people are too close and not wearing masks properly,” he said.
More than 44,000 doses of vaccine were administered over the week, and 95 per cent of the ACT population over 50 years have had their first dose, while 75 per cent of the cohort have received two doses.
While this was a very high level of vaccination, there are still a number of older Canberrans who haven’t received a first dose or completed their vaccination program. As this age group is most susceptible to contracting the virus and becoming seriously ill, Mr Barr urged them to come forward for vaccination.
He added that while trends were encouraging in younger age groups, it would take “some time and patience before we get an equitable level of vaccine coverage across our entire community”, given the city’s single largest demographic is 20 to 39 years olds.
On current trajectories, the ACT and NSW will be the first to reach the 70 and 80 per cent targets, but Mr Barr stressed that our actions under the national plan will be limited by vaccination rates across the rest of the country. He said the national plan was a solid document but had been “grievously misrepresented”, in particular by some politicians.
UPDATED 11:55 am: The ACT has recorded 15 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8:00 pm last night.
Fifteen cases were reported yesterday as well.
Of the 15 new cases, eight have been linked to existing cases. Five were in quarantine for the entirety of their infectious period, at least nine were in the community for part of that period.
One case is a detainee at the Alexander Maconochie Centre.
There are 10 patients in hospital with COVID-19, three are in intensive care and one is on a ventilator.
ACT Policing, WorkSafe and Access Canberra conducted 468 traffic stops and there were five directions to leave the ACT yesterday.
In NSW, Premier Gladys Berejiklian reported 1262 new cases and seven deaths: a man in his 20s, a woman in her 40s, a man and woman in their 50s, a man in his 70s, and a man and a woman in their 80s.
Yesterday, there were 1599 new cases and eight deaths in NSW.
In Victoria, Premier Dan Andrews announced 392 new cases, a decline from the 450 cases announced yesterday.
9:15 am: Woolworths at Wanniassa, Charnwood, Conder, Franklin and Tuggeranong at Greenway, as well as Costco at the Canberra Airport, have all been listed as casual exposure locations overnight.
Anyone at Costco Canberra between 4:00 pm and 5:10 pm on Wednesday (8 September) is considered a casual contact.
Woolworths Conder has been listed as a casual exposure site between 3:50 pm and 5:00 pm on the same day, while anyone at the Tuggeranong store in Greenway between 1:30 pm and 3:00 pm on Monday, 6 September, is also considered a casual contact.
This also applies to anyone at Woolworths Franklin between 2:20 pm and 3:20 pm on Saturday, 4 September, and Woolworths Charnwood between 11:50 am and 1:00 pm on Tuesday, 31 August.
People who were at Woolworths Wanniassa or Conder between Tuesday, 7 September, and Thursday, 9 September during the listed time periods must monitor for symptoms.
Seven bus routes spanning the Lanyon shops, the city interchange, the Tuggeranong interchange, Coombs and Woden have also been listed as casual exposure locations on Monday, 6 September, and Wednesday, 8 September.
The full list of exposure locations can be found at covid19.act.gov.au.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman will update the ACT’s COVID-19 situation at 11:45 am.
More to come.