13 October 2021

UPDATED: Primary school, child care staff must get jab, contact tracing overhaul

| Ian Bushnell
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Andrew Barr

Andrew Barr at this morning’s COVID-19 briefing. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

UPDATED 3:15 pm: ACT primary school teachers and child care workers will need to be fully vaccinated by 29 November to work with children under the age of 12.

The move to mandate vaccination for staff working across early childhood settings, ACT primary schools, out of school hours care, and specialist and flexible education settings comes as new cases of COVID-19 in the ACT jumped to 51, the second-highest of the outbreak, ahead of leaving lockdown on Friday.

This includes a cluster of 18 at a panel beater business.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman also announced changes to its test, trace, isolate and quarantine process that will focus only on areas where there is a higher risk of transmission.

The new vaccine mandate is designed to protect unvaccinated and vulnerable children.

It will cover staff including teachers, early childhood educators, learning and support staff, administrative staff (including building services and general services staff), canteen workers and cleaners who are in direct contact with children, as well as allied health professionals who regularly attend relevant schools.

Students on placement at certain education settings will also be included in the requirement.

First-dose vaccination will be required by no later than 1 November 2021 and second dose by no later than 29 November 2021.

“This will help to reassure parents of children under 12, and particularly vulnerable children, that every possible thing is being done to reduce the risk of COVID-19 as we go back to school and early childhood education and care,” Education Minister Yvette Berry said.

She said that most staff were already vaccinated, but this would give parents, students and staff extra assurance.

Staff who were still not vaccinated were being given priority to get their shots, and those who still would not or could not be vaccinated would be redeployed to less risky settings.

Those with health reasons would be able to get an exemption.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said work was being prepared for National Cabinet on extending the mandate to the disability sector.

Dr Coleman said testing arrangements would remain the same, and it remained imperative that people did not delay if they had symptoms.

But she said the changes this week and in coming weeks to contact tracing and quarantine arrangements would reduce the social and economic cost of the public health measures and mean less disruption to businesses and fewer people having to isolate and quarantine.

Dr Coleman said ACT Health would no longer be attempting to completely trace the movements of each positive case.

“As we expect case numbers to rise, this won’t be possible or even necessary moving forward,” she said.

Casual contacts will no longer be followed up, and casual contact locations will not be listed unless there is a higher risk of potential public health impacts. Monitoring symptom sites won’t be listed on the COVID-19 website.

Dr Coleman said this related to customers or non-staff members who had spent a short time in and around certain venues.

These low-risk locations and situations include fast food outlets, cafes and restaurants, click and collect retail stores, contactless food delivery, some pharmacies, large retail venues where the customer has used self-service facilities, public transport, outdoor public venues such as playgrounds and sporting grounds, petrol stations and ATMs.

Secondary contacts will no longer have to quarantine but positive cases and close contacts will still have to isolate for the full 14 days and be tested.

“These outcomes mean less time in quarantine for the community and less disruption for businesses,” she said.

There will be a further update on 29 October.

Mr Barr warned that there would still be public health measures after lockdown lifts and that the compliance team and police would continue their work.

He said businesses would need to set up their COVID-safe plans and assistance was available from the ACT Government Business Hub and the COVID website.

Border travel arrangements would remain in place and police from both NSW and ACT would be deployed.

Yesterday 1500 vehicles were stopped and 40 were directed to leave the ACT.

Mr Barr is awaiting advice from NSW on any changes to the way it deals with the ACT when lockdown lifts.

He said the ACT had asked for an expansion of the border bubble but the result was driven by NSW based on vaccination rates.

There had been complaints that areas to the north and west of Yass such as the Hilltops region had been left out.

Mr Barr said the bubble would continue to expand but that it was up to NSW where.

“I still do not have a date yet and cannot confirm an answer to the two most popular questions: when can I go to Sydney and when can I go to the coast?” Mr Barr said.

He said he would let Canberrans know as soon as he knew.

Ken Behrens sign

The ACT has recorded 51 new cases of COVID-19 overnight. Photo: David Murtagh.

11 am: The ACT has recorded 51 new cases of COVID-19. The daily record for the ACT is 52. Yesterday the ACT had 28 cases.

Of the new cases, 32 are linked to known cases or ongoing clusters and 19 are household contacts.

Just 13 cases were in quarantine during their whole infectious period and 22 have been assessed as presenting a risk of transmission to others.

As at 8 pm last night there were 16 patients in ACT hospitals, including eight in intensive care. Five of these cases require ventilation.

NSW has recorded 444 new cases and four deaths.

There are currently 716 COVID cases in hospital and 150 people are in ICU.

The state has reported 75.2 per cent of its 16-plus population is now double vaxxed.

In Victoria, 1571 cases were reported and there were 13 deaths.

Yesterday there were 1466 new cases.

Currently, 60.4 per cent of eligible Victorians are fully vaccinated.

Dr Kerryn Coleman

Dr Kerryn Coleman: sources of infection are becoming less important as vaccination rates rise. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

9:45 am: A Fyshwick childcare centre has been named as a COVID-19 close contact exposure site this morning, as the ACT Government prepares to announce changes to its contact tracing rules today.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said yesterday that the daily case numbers and sources of infection were becoming less important as vaccination rates rise and the Territory enters ‘COVID-normal’.

ACT authorities are expecting an increase in COVID-19 cases in the next few weeks, with Dr Coleman suggesting that by next week they could be in the mid-50s.

The Artemis Early Learning Centre in Fyshwick is listed on the ACT COVID-19 website this morning as a close contact site on Wednesday, 6 October and Thursday, 7 October, from 8:20 am to 4:50 pm both days.

Casual contact sites include a number of supermarkets, a coffee shop and a Federal Government agency.

The Friendly Grocer supermarkets in Hughes and Narrabundah are named from last week.

The Hughes store is listed for Thursday, 7 October twice – 11 am to 1:30 pm, and 3 pm to 4 pm – and Wednesday, 6 October from 12:15 pm to 4:30 pm and Tuesday, 5 October from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm.

The Narrabundah store is named twice – for Monday, 4 October (9 am to 11:30 am) and Wednesday, 6 October (10:30 am to 12:30 pm).

Other supermarkets are ALDI at Lanyon Marketplace in Conder on Thursday 7 October (6:45 pm to 8 pm) and Woolworths in Charnwood on Sunday 3 October (9 pm to 10 pm).

The first floor of the Australian Bureau of Statistics is named twice for Tuesday, 5 October and Wednesday, 6 October, from 7:30 am to 4 pm both days.

The ACT is also looking to NSW to clarify its travel rules today or tomorrow amid confusion over cross-border travel.

ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja is calling on NSW to normalise travel between the two jurisdictions and has been lobbying new Premier Dominic Perrottet to align travel rules.

Master Builders ACT is calling on the ACT Government’s travel rules to be the same as NSW.

It says the ACT’s cross-border travel arrangements to be implemented on Friday mean that ACT and NSW residents will have to navigate different travel rules to conduct essential work for a further two weeks.

“The ACT Government’s refusal to align ACT cross-border travel rules with regional NSW means that ACT businesses and workers will have to endure at least two more weeks of confusing travel rules,” CEO Michael Hopkins said.

“The ACT’s cross-border travel rules are extremely confusing and difficult to decipher.”

He said the ACT’s rules meant that regional NSW residents could freely travel throughout regional NSW for essential work, but could not enter the ACT if they live outside 27 arbitrary NSW postcodes, even though the NSW Government permits this travel.

“No evidence has been supplied to support the ACT Government’s decision to allow travel to the ACT from Gundagai but not permit travel from Bega, even when the NSW Government permits travel between Gundagai and Bega,” he said.

“The rules mean that from Friday, a tradie living in Goulburn has to choose between travelling to the ACT or Marulan for work, but cannot travel to both without staying home for 14 days.”

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Ok, so the new double vaccine mandate to protect unvaccinated and vulnerable children. Fair enough, however, I see a couple of glaring omissions:

1. The kids parents and family unit. If little Johnnie or Jilly brings the virus to school, every kid under 12 years of age is at risk.

2. The school bus driver who takes them to school every day.

Stephen Saunders4:15 pm 13 Oct 21

With NSW unlocked and ACT about to, wondering why I can’t sync either state’s check-in app with the digital COVID certificate.

Is it because he doesn’t hold a hose, mate?

And how many of the new cases are double vaxxed?

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