23 March 2022

COVID-19 cases back over 1000; more than 1500 infections recorded in schools last week

| Lottie Twyford
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School zone

A total of 1523 cases of COVID-19 were reported in the ACT’s schools last week. Photo: TCCS.

The ACT has recorded 1014 new COVID-19 cases overnight, taking the local active caseload to 5728 (2607 PCR and 3121 RAT).

Last week (week ending Sunday, 20 March), 1531 cases of COVID-19 were reported in 126 public and non-government schools in the ACT. This accounts for around 20 per cent of all COVID-19 cases recorded in the Territory last week.

In the previous week to 13 March, 1118 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in 125 ACT schools.

New local infections jumped to 1311 on Thursday (17 March), the highest number of infections in almost two months. They then remained above 1000 for four consecutive days.

Health authorities partly attributed this rise in infections to the spread of the more transmissible BA.2 sub-lineage of Omicron, but also noted the return to large-scale events, extracurricular activities and school as potential reasons behind the rise.

It was estimated case numbers would stabilise at around 800 a day.

Due to the prevalence and spread of COVID-19 in the community, it’s been difficult for health and education authorities to confirm whether any transmission is occurring in schools this year or if it is mainly taking place in households or other contexts.

No schools have had to close this year following a COVID-19 outbreak, but there have been murmurings of teacher shortages plaguing schools this term.

Over the border in NSW, Queanbeyan High School teachers went on strike yesterday (21 March) in protest against the NSW Department of Education’s decision to force students to return to full-time on-campus learning, despite staff claiming there were not enough teachers to operate in a ‘business as usual’ model.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said she was aware high caseloads in schools and early childhood centres were a concern to parents and families.

However, infections in this age group were not leading to serious illness.

“With case numbers increasing over the last week, the ACT Government is carefully monitoring the situation to ensure the public health response is proportionate,” she told the Legislative Assembly this morning.

Ms Stephen-Smith said demand for PCR testing was beginning to increase in line with the rise of COVID-19 cases in the Territory, which was also being closely monitored.

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Currently, there are 38 patients in ACT hospitals with COVID-19. Of these, three are in ICU, with one requiring ventilation.

Yesterday, there were 39 people in hospital and four in intensive care.

As of yesterday, the double-dose vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population was 96.2 per cent, and 71.7 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have received a booster.

Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 33.6 per cent had received two doses.

Since the pandemic began, 68,169 (44,878 PCR and 23,291 RAT) cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the ACT.

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Interstate, NSW has reported four deaths overnight and 20,960 new cases.

There are now 1177 people in hospital with the virus and 41 people in ICUs around the state.

Victoria has reported seven new deaths overnight and an additional 9594 cases of COVID-19.

There are now 256 people hospitalised with the virus, while 24 patients are in the state’s intensive care units.

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