UPDATED 1 pm: Chief Minister Andrew Barr has told Canberrans at today’s weekly COVID-19 update they should be incredibly proud of the city’s vaccination rates, and he thanked people for having done the right thing in recent times.
According to ACT Health, 95.1 per cent of the ACT’s 12-plus population is now fully vaccinated.
“With all of the hard work behind us, we are now well-placed to have a happy Christmas and a well-deserved summer holiday,” he said.
Mr Barr also encouraged Canberrans to spend and stay local as they get back out to enjoy activities that they have missed out on for some time.
He wasn’t, however, forthcoming about whether he’d be dancing in a nightclub or drinking a beer standing up this weekend to celebrate the eased restrictions, but did say he imagined the Territory’s youngsters would be out showing off their ‘Moves Like Jagger’ this weekend.
“For the youngsters, nightclubs will reopen and dancing is permitted. Moves Like Jagger will be seen on dance floors across Canberra,” he said.
Noting the ACT was about to enter the next stage of the pandemic response, Mr Barr reminded Canberrans to do the right thing and get tested if unwell.
ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman also provided her weekly epidemiological update today.
The Territory recorded 85 new cases in the week to 8 pm on Sunday (7 November), an increase from last week’s case numbers.
The total for this outbreak now sits at 1742.
Dr Coleman noted that while there had been a slight increase in daily cases in the last week, mainly due to cases in schools, there had been little change to the epidemiology of the outbreak.
However, the median age of cases has dropped from around 26 or 27 to 15 last week, reflecting the number of schools affected by COVID.
Despite 13 schools being named COVID exposure sites, only two have recorded transmission on-campus and the rolling five-day average of cases remains 12.
The Wanniassa School Junior Campus now has around 50 cases associated with the cluster, although Dr Coleman says this also incorporates household contacts.
There has also been transmission at Erindale College.
The Chief Health Officer said 50 children are now at home under the care of the COVID-19 care at home team. None have serious symptoms at this point.
Dr Coleman was pleased to announce testing rates had increased, although she said breakthrough infections are now rising: 21 per cent of new cases recorded are in vaccinated individuals.
On the other hand, hospitalisation rates had fallen.
In the past week, COVID-19 exposure sites have included schools, construction sites, and other more general venues accessible to the public.
Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith told the ACT Legislative Assembly this morning that the ACT, like the rest of the country, was now learning to live with COVID-19 and the public health response would increasingly target high-risk settings.
On this, Ms Stephen-Smith said the Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman, was actively considering expanding the vaccine mandate to additional healthcare workers such as those providing primary care.
In her remarks, Ms Stephen-Smith also said authorities acknowledge the particular risk in healthcare settings as there is a higher likelihood of staff “providing care to COVID-positive patients”.
Ms Stephen-Smith acknowledged the work of Aspen Medical and Canberra Health Services delivering on-site vaccinations to people in hard to reach, marginalised communities or anyone in unstable housing, as well as pop-up clinics in communities where vaccination rates are noticeably lower than the average.
She said 2.1 per cent of Canberrans had already accessed a booster dose.
Deputy Opposition Leader Giulia Jones said today the Canberra Liberals welcomed the announcement of the earlier than expected easing of restrictions.
UPDATED 12:20 pm: The ACT has recorded 18 new cases of COVID-19 to 8 pm last night.
Yesterday there were 13 cases.
There is one patient in hospital on a ventilator.
The daily number of tests over the past week has seen a steady increase and was around 1,700 per day last week.
According to ACT Health, the five-day rolling average of daily cases (by diagnosis date) has increased to 12. The median age of cases notified last week was 15, compared with 27 across the entire outbreak.
NSW has recorded 222 new local cases (and two from interstate or overseas), and four deaths.
There are 254 people in hospital, including 42 in ICU.
Of NSW’s 16-plus population, 89.9 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Yesterday there were 187 cases and seven deaths.
In Victoria, there are 1069 new local cases and 10 deaths.
About 84 per cent of Victorians aged older than 12 were fully vaccinated.
9:30 am: From Friday, Canberrans can take off their masks in most settings, dancefloors are back, nightclubs will open and there will no longer be any limit on visitors to a home.
Given the ACT’s world-leading vaccination rates – more than 95 per cent of the eligible 12-plus population is now fully vaccinated – the next easing of restrictions has been brought forward to 11:59 pm on Thursday, 11 November 2021.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith confirmed this morning (9 November) a major tranche of the remaining restrictions will be eased, including no more limits on home visits or informal outdoor gatherings, masks will only be required in high-risk settings and nightclubs can open.
In a joint statement, Mr Barr and Ms Stephen-Smith confirmed more than 370,000 Canberrans are now fully vaccinated.
Masks will only be required in high-risk settings such as hospitals and aged care facilities, on public transport, and in schools and some businesses settings.
People are encouraged to continue wearing face masks, though. Correctional facilities, the airport, and after-school hours care will be some of the other settings requiring a mask for anyone aged 12-years and above.
Indoor and outdoor entertainment venues with fixed seating will be able to host events at 100 per cent seated capacity.
Restrictions on cinemas and swimming pools will be relaxed.
Organised sport can recommence with one person per two square metres in indoor settings. This will become the default limit across most indoor settings and industries, including hospitality and retail.
No density limits will apply in outdoor spaces for most activities and events will be able to have more people before requiring an exemption.
Drinking while standing will be permitted at licenced venues, cafes and restaurants, and nightclubs will be able to reopen, with dancing again allowed.
Ms Stephen-Smith and Mr Barr said the remaining baseline measures, such as masks in high-risk settings, are anticipated to remain in place over the Christmas period before being reviewed in late January 2022.
Travel exemption requirements will stay in place for designated, high-risk geographical areas across the country. The existing high-risk geographical areas will be reviewed this week, with any changes to come into effect from 12 November.
Canberrans are still urged to stay at home if they are unwell and to get tested for COVID-19.
The announcement on the easing of restrictions comes as 12 schools have recorded COVID-19 infections in the past few weeks.
Canberra Girls Grammar School, St Clare’s College, Namadgi School, St Anthony’s Parish Primary School, Gordon Primary School, Wanniassa School (Junior and Senior campuses), Ainslie School, Melrose High School, Orana Steiner School, Erindale College and Holy Family School have all been impacted by positive cases.
There are now 43 cases associated with the initial Wanniassa School (Junior Campus) cluster.
Yesterday, Minister for Education Yvette Berry could not confirm how many positive cases were now associated with each school, only that transmission had occurred on-campus at Wanniassa School.
New casual and close exposure sites have also been consistently added to the government’s exposure site list in recent days. These include gyms, hairdressers and a martial arts facility in Canberra’s south.
See the COVID-19 website for more information and details about times of exposure.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman will provide an update on the COVID-19 situation in the ACT this afternoon.