19 November 2021

UPDATED: ACT records 17 COVID-19 cases, won't go ahead with rapid antigen pilot in schools this year

| Lottie Twyford
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COVID-19 drive-through testing site at Kambah: over 4000 negative test results have been returned in the 24 hours to 9 am today. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

UPDATED 11 am: The ACT has recorded 17 new cases of COVID-19 to 8 pm last night.

A total of 4243 negative tests were returned in the past 24 hours to 9 am this morning.

Yesterday the ACT recorded 25 new cases – the highest daily case numbers in almost a month.

There are 183 active cases in the ACT and three (active and cleared) COVID-19 cases are in hospital. One of these is in the ICU and on a ventilator.

According to ACT Health, 97 per cent of Canberrans (aged 12 and above) are now fully vaccinated.

A number of new exposure sites have been listed on the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website, including gyms, hospitality venues and beauty services.

Anytime Fitness in Weston has been listed as a close contact exposure site for Wednesday, 10 November, between 6 am and 7:35 am and Thursday, 11 November, between 7:30 am and 8:30 am.

Club Lime Westfield Belconnen is also listed as a close contact exposure site on Monday, 15 November, between 5:30 pm and 6:45 pm and Tuesday, 16 November, between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm.

The other close contact site is Love Nails Woden on Sunday, 14 November, between 2:45 pm and 3:30 pm.

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Several other venues are also listed as casual contact exposure sites.

On Friday, 12 November, the Calwell Club is listed between 11:45 am and 8:55 pm while Rashays Tuggeranong was exposed to the virus between 8:15 pm and 9:30 pm.

On Saturday, 13 November, the venues of concern are the Coffee Club in the Canberra Centre between 3:05 pm and 3:40 pm and Harmonie German Club (Pool Room only) between 6:20 pm and 7:50 pm.

The ANZ Branch in Tuggeranong is also a casual contact exposure location on Tuesday, 16 November, between 11:04 am and 11:50 am.

See the COVID-19 website for more details and instructions to follow as a close or casual contact.

While no further schools have been added as exposure locations overnight, Erindale College has been exposed to the virus for an additional day.

Someone attended the campus while potentially infectious with the virus on Tuesday, 16 November.

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NSW recorded 216 new cases and three deaths.

There are 196 people in hospital with COVID-19 and 28 in ICU.

Of the state’s 16-plus population, 91.5 per cent are fully vaccinated, and 74.6 per cent of the 12 to 15 population are fully vaccinated.

Yesterday, NSW recorded 262 new cases and three deaths.

In Victoria, there are 1273 new cases and eight deaths.

Yesterday, the state recorded 1007 new cases and two deaths.

Around 88 per cent of the state’s 12-plus population is now fully vaccinated.

Wanniassa School - Junior Campus

There are 57 cases related to the Wanniassa School – Junior Campus. Photo: Wanniassa School – Junior Campus.

9:40 am: Citing the fact there are only four weeks left of school this term, the ACT Government will not go ahead with a rapid antigen testing pilot program in schools this year.

Cabinet met yesterday afternoon to debate the matter, but a government spokesperson said ultimately they had decided there isn’t sufficient time left in the year to get such a complex trial up and running effectively.

“We are aware that this has been a stressful year for many Canberrans. Looking to implement this program so close to the term ending would only generate more stress for children and their families,” the spokesperson said.

The program, which Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith has described as a ‘test and stay’ approach, would have allowed children deemed contacts of a positive COVID-19 case to continue attending school as long as they returned a negative result in the morning from an at-home test.

They would otherwise still be considered to be in quarantine.

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Earlier this week, Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman expressed concerns about balancing the positive mental health impacts of attending school with the potentially negative ones of children needing to be tested every morning.

“There are some logistical challenges around it,” Dr Coleman said.

She noted that while the at-home tests are unlikely to be as difficult as those conducted by nurses at testing clinics, they are “not entirely pleasant”.

The government spokesperson said the need for a testing pilot would be reassessed ahead of term one next year.

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Over the border in NSW, Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell announced last week the state would roll out a rapid antigen home testing trial to reduce disruption at schools and halve the amount of time close contacts need to isolate for.

Ms Mitchell said more than 500,000 kits would be rapidly deployed to primary schools affected by positive cases.

In Victoria, the government is rolling out an opt-in rapid antigen testing program for schools impacted by COVID-19.

Similar to NSW, it would allow unvaccinated or partially vaccinated students to return to school after a seven-day quarantine, instead of completing the full 14-day quarantine.

The ACT Government spokesperson said the ACT would continue to observe the rollout of rapid antigen testing programs in other jurisdictions and learn from them while identifying any issues for the new year.

“Our focus remains on making schools as COVID-safe as possible while under 12s are unable to be vaccinated,” the spokesperson said.

Across the ACT, 22 school campuses have been exposed to the virus since the beginning of this month when all students returned to on-campus learning. At least 57 COVID-19 cases have been linked to the initial cluster at the Wanniassa School – Junior Campus.

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