5 May 2020

UPDATED: First COVID-19 death recorded in ACT, infection tally rises across region

| Genevieve Jacobs and Ian Bushnell
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Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman has announced the ACT’s first COVID-19 death. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT has recorded its first COVID-19 death, a woman in her 80s who had been cared for in Canberra Hospital.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the woman had acquired the disease overseas and offered her sincere condolences to the women’s family and friends.

“My thoughts are with the family and friends of this person through such a difficult time,” Dr Coleman said.

“This is the very sad reality of this disease, which is seeing the elderly at an increased risk of complications from COVID-19. It is why we need everyone to take the social distancing measures we are implementing seriously. We need everyone to stay at home where possible, to practice good hygiene and to keep at least 1.5 metres away from others,” she said.

“These measures will give us the best chance to slow the spread of this disease and protect our most vulnerable. This is particularly important as we will continue to see the number of cases increase and local transmission start to occur in the ACT.

“I also want to offer my thanks to the healthcare workers in our hospitals and in the community, who are caring for those in our community with COVID-19, and who are supporting their families.”

She would not say whether the woman was a cruise ship passenger.

There has been one new confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the ACT’s total to 78. The new case is a female in her 30s. ACT Health can confirm the new case was linked to overseas travel.

However, two cases are still under investigation by ACT Health, with the cause of transmission not formally identified yet. There are still six people in hospital, including two in intensive care. Two people have recovered and released from self-isolation.

“While there remains no evidence of community transmission in the ACT, we continue to advise that it is inevitable we will start to see this at some point,” Dr Coleman said.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Health Minister Rachel-Stephen Smith said the woman’s death served as a reminder to Canberrans of the seriousness of the situation.

“It does reflect the significance of this virus and the impacts it can have on older people and serves as a reminder why we must all observe the new rules that have been put in place by the National Cabinet over the weekend,” Mr Barr said.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the ACT was not immune or magically protected from COVID-19, and the death showed how important it is that everyone followed the directions and advice around physical distancing and staying at home wherever possible.

There have been 4363 negative COVID-19 tests in the ACT to date.

Dr Coleman said the falling number of new cases reflected the significant tightening of border measures and the reduced numbers of people coming into the country from overseas, ”because we know that’s where the greatest risk of exposure is”.

But she warned that there may be a spike in the next couple of days and community transmission was only a matter of time.

“There’s no way we will be able to stop that from occurring,” she said.

“Our aim now is to minimise that spread as much as we can to make sure that even if people get sick they can get the right care that they need in the right time.”

All travellers who returned to the ACT on Saturday on Qatar Airways continue to be well, Dr Coleman said. As of this afternoon, five of the seven will continue with their mandatory self-quarantine at home, following a thorough assessment by public health staff. Two will continue to be in quarantine in a Canberra hotel.

Ms Stephen Smith said ADF and police were now assisting health protection staff check on those in self-isolation and that partnership would only strengthen as the need for enforcement grew.

Across the Southern NSW health region, there are now 45 cases of COVID-19 including nine in Goulburn Mulwaree Shire, four in Palerang, five in the Queanbeyan local government area, and six in Yass Valley. Eurobodalla and Bega Valley both have eight cases each.

The ACT Government has established a new dedicated COVID-19 website for all information about the health and economic response to the pandemic in the ACT. For further information, visit www.covid19.act.gov.au.

People who are concerned and want further information on the virus can also call the Australian Government’s Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For details on how the ACT stats compare to other jurisdictions across Australia, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website. This information is updated daily.


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Lets all hope the corana virus is out of the way before winter starts. Last year ten people died from influenza in the ACT, as Canberra experienced one of its worst flu seasons on record.

Dept of Health reports 3402 flu cases were recorded in the national capital to September 2019.

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