17 August 2021

UPDATED: Police to move on store crowds as ACT records 17 new COVID-19 cases

| Genevieve Jacobs and Dominic Giannini
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Andrew Barr at press conference

Chief Minister Andrew Barr: “The extent of the lockdown is very much contingent on what happens over the next few days.” Photo: Lottie Twyford.

UPDATED 2:30 pm: The ACT will face a stronger police presence to enforce the public health directions, but the government has stopped short of imposing travel restrictions such as 10 or five-kilometre zones to restrict movement even further.

The ACT has 17 new cases, bringing the total to 45.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the main problem was retail, such as hardware stores where people were continuing to gather together in numbers and not dispersing.

“We recognise the need to have those facilities open but we’re trying to manage that,” he said.

Mr Barr said the government was considering arrangements that may support local businesses to safely provide online ordering and click and collect services in line with public health advice.

But businesses would need to be proactive in taking all reasonable steps to ensure people who enter their business were not browsing.

Mr Barr said Canberrans by and large had been amazing and the data showed that people had been pretty good about staying in their local areas.

But the government reserves the right to review the lockdown rules.

“The extent of the lockdown is very much contingent on what happens over the next few days,” Mr Barr said. “This is a really critical time. This is not the time to ease restrictions.”

Travel zones are being considered and they remained a potential measure, he said.

Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan said police would take an educative approach at first but if they needed to fine people they would.

He said police would be involved in the drafting of the health direction to ensure they would be able to enforce it.

Breaching a health order can be costly, resulting in a $1000 fine, while you can be fined $200 for not wearing a mask.

Deputy Commissioner Gaughan said businesses themselves had been asking for clarity on lingering crowds of customers and been contacting police for support.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the fact that the number of cases was roughly the same as yesterday was of no comfort.

She said case numbers were expected to rise and fluctuate over the next seven to 10 days, depending on the number of exposure sites.

“From two weeks from the lockdown date we will continue to see the fallout from those [initial] exposures,” she said.

“It’s really unknown because I still don’t have a really good feel about how much exposure has resulted in transmission of disease.”

The available case breakdown was: Lyneham High 5, Downer Community Centre 3, Gold Creek School 3, Fiction 6 with the potential for more.

Dr Coleman said the two main public hospitals were ready to take patients if needed, and the Garran Surge Centre could revert to its original purpose as an emergency centre.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said increased testing was putting pressure on the health workforce and she urged anyone with a nursing background who is willing to volunteer their services to get in touch with Canberra Health Services.

She also noted that all stakeholders across the Territory are being engaged, and flagged that later year nursing and medical students may be brought in to support the workforce.

“While not specifically for testing, although it may be, they will be brought in to support a broader response,” she said.

This will be in addition to the 16 Defence personnel who are already providing assistance.

1:30 pm: “What’s important now is for people to stay at home. There is one simple message: this virus only transmits when people come into close contact. Please stay at home,” Chief Minister Andrew Barr warned Canberrans at today’s COVID-19 briefing as the number of active cases in Canberra rose to 45.

“The success of the lockdown is contingent on what happens over the next few days.”

Seventeen new cases have been diagnosed overnight including four new positive cases.

Three cases are so far unlinked and are being investigated intensively. Ten cases have links to known cases and a further four are in preliminary investigation.

In total, 37 cases have been traced from the outbreak as a whole.

Three cases have been linked to the Bruce and Reid CIT campuses in several buildings across two campuses creating multiple exposure sites.

Six sites have been identified where transmission has occurred, including the Fiction nightclub, Downer Community Centre, Assembly bar, the Lennock dealership site in Phillip, Gold Creek School and Lyneham High.

No positive cases are currently hospitalised and despite significant anxiety over Greenway Views aged care at Tuggeranong, at this stage there are no new cases in the facility.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman warned at the daily press conference that cases are likely to continue fluctuating for the next seven to 10 days and that health authorities are seeing secondary and even tertiary transmission.

Eighty exposure locations have been listed in the ACT and Dr Coleman said it was likely that list will expand to 100 in the next few days.

Canberra has recorded an all-time record level of testing, completing 7380 yesterday. Testing sites continue to experience high levels of demand and Health Minister Rachel-Stephen Smith urged Canberrans who are not close contacts to wait before coming forward.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the rate of vaccination was not being impacted by the changes to the health workforce.

Mr Barr said the level of testing was providing “excellent surveillance” over the spread of the virus but warned that we are very early in the outbreak and case numbers will continue to grow for the next few days.

The milestone being sought is no new infections in the community.

“If you have to leave home, leave only for essential reasons,” Mr Barr said.

“Now is not the time to be browsing or catching up with people at the shops.

“Browsing at a hardware store is not an essential activity. If you need to go there, get in and get out quickly. Most people shouldn’t need to do that today, tomorrow or the rest of this week.”

ACT Policing will be working with businesses to actively enforce restrictions and Mr Barr said some essential business owners had struggled to make people leave their premises.

“Our risk points right now are hanging around supermarkets and hardware stores, not just getting what you need and getting back home,” Mr Barr said.

Almost all construction will also continue to be shut down and will remain, largely, a prohibited activity. Mr Barr said that while restrictions are being reviewed every day, this is not the time to make any changes.

Non-essential businesses will continue to stay closed and face masks must be worn by people aged 12 years and older outside the home.

Mr Barr also flagged a list of business support measures developed by the ACT Government in collaboration with the Commonwealth. There will be expanded support for workers who have lost hours and extensions to business support grants up to $10,000 for businesses with employees and $4000 for businesses without employees.

Additional measures to support the most vulnerable community members are also being developed and these will include emergency food relief and mental health support.

“We are reviewing public health measures every single day and when we’re close to making changes we will. Today is not that day,” Mr Barr said.

12 noon: Chief Health Officer Dy Kerryn Coleman has announced that the ACT has recorded 17 new COVID-19, cases bringing the total number of active cases to 45.

Three are unlinked and contact tracing is underway. Ten are linked to existing cases and four are new cases.

No Canberran is in hospital. All are at home and being supported by ACT Health.

More than 7500 people are in quarantine at home.

More to come.

10:15 am: A positive COVID-19 case has been linked to the Chapman Primary After School Care.

The staff member worked shifts between 2:30 pm and 6:00 pm on Tuesday, 10 August and Wednesday, 11 August when they were potentially infectious with the disease.

Only people in the Chapman Primary After School Care building are considered close contacts. The rest of the school community is not required to take any action at this time.

Close contacts are currently being contacted by ACT Health and will be advised to quarantine.

9:40 am: Exposure sites across Canberra have ballooned to more than 100, including the CIT campuses at Reid and Bruce after three people who attended the sites tested positive for COVID-19.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith could not confirm whether these were new cases or included in yesterday’s figures when asked on ABC Radio about an email sent to staff and students last night confirming the cases.

The campuses have been listed as exposure sites between Tuesday, 10 August and Thursday, 12 August.

The Civic Pub in Braddon has also been listed as an exposure site on 9 and 11 August, as has an F45 training facility in Barton between 5:00 am and 8:00 am on 10, 11 and 12 August.

Hungry Jacks Belconnen has been added, as well as the Franklin General Practice at 54 Nullarbor Avenue on 12 August between 2:15 pm and 3:15 pm.

A full list of exposure sites can be found at www.covid19.act.gov.au.

As Canberrans continue to inundate testing centres, Ms Stephen-Smith did not confirm whether sites would begin to offer 24-hour testing, despite Chief Minister Andrew Barr flagging a few days ago that the Territory had the capacity.

“We have not got unlimited amounts of staff that can do this work,” she told ABC Radio.

“We need to take care of our staff and one of the things that happened last week – we did originally say 24 hours a day – but they were very cold nights and it was determined that it would not be safe for our staff, or the people waiting, for them to stay all night in those sub-zero conditions.”

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Bunnings is essential if you are doing renovations on your investment property like I have been. It is basically just a few tradies and very covid safe, you are not in close proximity to anyone. Why bottle shops are open though is another matter..

Capital Retro9:16 am 18 Aug 21

I wouldn’t buy any wood from Bunnings on-line (or click and collect) unless I could select it myself. Some of their sleepers are shaped like bananas.

Under the rules renovations on your own home or an investment property is NOT essential.

Government has made it quite clear that the only building work that can be done is urgent repairs. Renovations are not urgent repairs.

And do agree bottle shops is extending the friendship as to what is essential. Same too with coffee shops that don’t sell food etc.

My investment property is currently not tenanted. Hence it can be considered a second residence. According to the government’s approved reasons to leave the house it lists “move to a new place of residence or between difference places of residence”. That is entirely permitted and I am purely doing renos on a second residence. Given it is empty I’m not putting anyone’s life in danger except maybe keeping a family homeless in Canberra.

And yes it is urgent repairs due to damage from the previous tenants.

What do you think would happen if you cut off all the alcoholics (functional or otherwise) supply?

Alcohol withdrawal is a very serious health issue.

Capital Retro8:26 am 19 Aug 21

I would be very angry, JC.

Probably the same thing will happen as cutting extroverts off from nightclubs and parties or heroine addicts from their next hit. They will have withdrawal symptoms but the pansies will survive. I’m sure alcohol withdrawal is not as bad as getting COVID.

That response shows me that you don’t know much about alcohol withdrawal. The mortality rate for sudden withdrawal for alcoholics is between 1-5%, even with treatment.

Obviously this wouldn’t affect the majority of the population but its just a bit more serious than cutting off extroverts from being able to go to nightclubs.

Do you think it’s worth the added acute health (and policing) burden in the middle of a Covid outbreak?

Also a little more important than you being able to buy paint at Bunnings for your investment property renovation.

Alcoholics can die from Alcohol withdrawal. Might wanna read up on that champ.

Going to bunnings for an investment property is not essential. Your house isn’t going to collapse in a week.

Chewy/Capital Retro don’t disagree actually about bottle shops. As said extending the friendship but what I didn’t say was understand why it is allowed. Same actually for coffee shops that don’t sell meals.

Seeing the picture at the top of the article, reminds me of one group of people who deserve a huge shout out – those amazing Auslan signers who perform such a great job (e.g. at press conferences) in ensuring the hearing impaired are kept as informed and up to date as the rest of us – and I truly love their animation.

Capital Retro1:04 pm 19 Aug 21

While I’m sure they would appreciate your support GM I think they would appreciate their salaries of up to near $100K a year much more.

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