UPDATED 2 pm: Chief Minister Andrew Barr has acknowledged an “extraordinary 72 hours in NSW politics” as the ACT and NSW move towards their planned emergence from lockdown.
Two Canberrans have lost their lives to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours and Mr Barr expressed his condolences to the families of the two women, both in their 80s.
There are 28 new cases of COVID-19, but the Government remains committed to emerging from lockdown slowly on 15 October, while NSW will ease restrictions from 11 October for fully vaccinated people.
When asked about rapidly unfolding events in Macquarie St that have included the resignation of the Premier, the Transport Minister, and the Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro John Barilaro in short order, Mr Barr was measured.
“I guess it remains to be seen how quickly the new leadership can hit the ground running. Many would have been in the crisis cabinet so I hope it’s a short-term hiccup rather than a long or medium-term setback. NSW and what they do has very obvious implications for the ACT,” he said at today’s COVID briefing.
“John [Barilaro] and I have had our moments over the years but have been able to work together to promote some important cross-border advancements.
“I don’t know what he’s going to do next, we’re on different side sides of politics but I wish him well. I doubt he’ll become a sewage detective. I wouldn’t recommend that as his next career choice,” he said, referring to Mr Barilaro’s well-documented recent allegations that COVID-19 fragments in Merimbula sewage were from Canberrans fleeing lockdown.
Mr Barr said he would engage with the new Premier, likely to be Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, once he had his feet under the desk, and would seek to brief him and the new leadership team on the Canberra-Sydney rail corridor and other issues.
“The turnover at Transport, Treasury and First Minister level means that some of that work will need to be revisited,” he observed.
Mr Barr said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comment that a request for 50-50 emergency health funding from all states and territories was “shakedown politics” associated with Queensland’s plans to re-open borders was “not particularly helpful”.
On Friday, state and territory health ministers wrote a joint letter to the Commonwealth requesting financial assistance with the anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases as restrictions ease.
“This is not Labor versus Liberal. It’s about what we will need to do across all levels of government for our health system to manage what I hope is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Mr Barr said.
Activity-based funding in the health sector was capped at a 6.5 per cent increase per annum before the pandemic.
“We are not asking for a permanent increase but it is reasonable in the context of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that we can have a conversation about sharing the costs,” Mr Barr said.
“All we’re asking for is a 50-50 share of the increased activity that is clearly going to occur over this fiscal year in particular.”
The newly elected NSW Premier would need to take the lead on this issue as the biggest state with the most to gain from successful negotiations, he added.
Suburbs with new exposure locations linked to confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the ACT include a new close contact site in Florey.
The Florey School Holiday Program at 57 Ratcliffe Crescent, Florey, is now a close contact site for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week from 7:50 am to 5:00 pm each day. There are new monitor for symptoms sites in Ainslie, Amaroo, Civic, Fyshwick and Gungahlin. The full list of exposure sites can be found here.
UPDATED 12:30 pm: Two more Canberrans have died from the COVID-19 virus overnight, Chief Minister Andrew Barr told today’s COVID briefing.
Both women were in their 80s and one was a resident at the Calvary Haydon Retirement Community receiving end-of-life care. The woman was fully vaccinated. The other woman was admitted to Canberra Hospital on Friday night, receiving palliative care for COVID-19 and other health issues.
“We send our condolences and love to the family and friends of these two women at this difficult time,” Mr Barr said.
There have been 28 cases overnight, of which 14 are linked including 11 household contacts. Eight people were in quarantine during their entire infectious period but at least 16 were infectious in the community.
Sixteen people are currently hospitalised, including five in intensive care, one of whom requires ventilation. Ten of these patients are unvaccinated, four are partially vaccinated and the status of two is unknown.
Yesterday, 2700 tests were carried out.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said there have been no further cases at Calvary Haydon in the last 24 hours, but added that facilities where elderly people have co-morbidities are where the deaths are most likely to occur in the future.
“This community has responded exceptionally well to the call to get vaccinated, and that’s the best defence we have against the virus. Clearly, we will continue to deploy the public health social measures and TTIQ (test, trace, isolate, quarantine) measures, but as the days and weeks roll by, the best mechanism of defence is vaccination,” Mr Barr said.
“People finding themselves in hospital are predominantly unvaccinated or have only had one dose. Having a first dose doesn’t give as high a level of protection.”
Data from the ACT’s mass vaccination clinics shows that 60 per cent of the vaccines being administered on a daily basis are still first doses. This indicates that people continue to present in large numbers. It is estimated more than 95 per cent of Canberrans will have soon received both doses.
“The higher our coverage, the safer our community is, the fewer people in hospital and intensive care and the fewer number of deaths and that is what we are striving for in our public health response,” Mr Barr said.
“The evidence is very, very clear in Canberra, in Sydney, in Melbourne, around the world – if you are vaccinated, your chances of surviving severe disease are much, much stronge.”
The Chief Minister said ACT residents had come forward “in spades” for vaccination, but appealed to anyone remaining to think of their own health even if they didn’t consider the broader community.
As of yesterday, 93.4 per cent of the ACT’s eligible 12-plus population have received their first dose of vaccine and 64.6 per cent are fully vaccinated. Mr Barr said that anyone who is unvaccinated could take advantage of vaccine appointments at the AIS hub today.
The ACT’s rate of hospitalisation sits at around 10 per cent of positive cases, lower than NSW and Victoria. The Chief Minister believes this is attributable to the protective effect of high vaccination rates.
Mr Barr said that police had not advised of any concerns around Grand Final parties, adding that “Rugby League was clearly the winner last night”.
UPDATED 11:55 am: The ACT has recorded 28 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours and two deaths, both women in their 80s.
Yesterday the ACT had 38 cases.
Fourteen of the new cases are linked to known cases and the remaining 14 are under investigation.
Eight of the 28 were in quarantine for the entirety of their infectious period, but at least 16 were infectious in the community.
There are 16 people currently hospitalised across the ACT with COVID. Five are in ICU and one requires ventilation.
A total of 2700 tests were conducted yesterday, which Chief Minister Andrew Barr said was around the weekend average.
NSW recorded 623 new cases and six deaths. The youngest was aged in their 40s. Four were unvaccinated, one had one dose and the oldest casualty, a 90 year-old-woman in a nursing home, was fully vaccinated.
Yesterday the state had 667 new cases and 10 deaths.
Victoria has recorded 1377 new cases and four deaths.
Yesterday the state recorded 1220 new COVID cases and three deaths.
9 am: COVID-19 exposure sites continue to grow after the ACT recorded 38 new cases yesterday, slightly down from outbreak highs of 52 cases on two consecutive days at the end of last week.
There are now 360 active exposure locations. You can find the full list of sites on the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website.
The Scott’s Crossing construction site in Bunda St has been upgraded to a close contact location over Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (27 to 29 September) last week between 6:45 am and 4:30 pm each day as clusters there and at the 7 London Circuit construction site grow.
Queues for testing at EPIC were reportedly lengthy on Sunday although other ACT Government venues, including the Garran surge centre, had minimal waiting times.
Health authorities issued strong warnings to people planning to mark last night’s NRL Grand Final with gatherings after Victorian COVID commissioner Jeroen Weimar said last week that as many as a third of the state’s rapidly multiplying COVID-19 cases could be linked to AFL grand final parties.
As of last night, there are new casual exposure sites in Civic, Charnwood, Fyshwick and Gungahlin. New monitor for symptoms sites have been listed in Casey, Forrest, Griffith and Mitchell.
The casual exposure sites are Baby Bunting in Fyshwick on Friday between 10:35 am and 11:30 am; LDI Chisholm on Thursday between 7:30 pm and 8:30 pm; Bunnings Gungahlin on Wednesday between 6:00 pm and 11:30 pm; Capital Chemist Charnwood on Wednesday from 4:15 pm 5:10 pm; Coles Belconnen on Tuesday from 5:30 pm to 6:20 pm and the Commonwealth Bank Fyshwick on Tuesday from 10:30 am to 11:15 am.
Court Room One at the ACT Magistrate’s Court is a casual contact site for last Tuesday from 10:40 am to 12:20 pm, as is the new waiting area outside the courtroom, also on Tuesday from 9:25 am to 11:10 am.
Woolworths Metro in Cameron Avenue, Belconnen is a casual exposure site for Saturday, 25 September from 11:40 am to 12:50 pm and on Friday, 24 September from 9:40 am to 10:15 am.
Also in Belconnen, the Woolworths in Westfield is a casual exposure site for Friday, 24 September from 3:15 pm to 4:00 pm, and Wednesday, 22 September from 2:55 pm to 4:00 pm.