16 November 2021

UPDATED: COVID-19 transmission confirmed at five Canberra schools after 4100 tests performed yesterday

| Lottie Twyford
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Dr Kerryn Coleman

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman addressed the media today. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

UPDATED 2 pm: The ACT yesterday recorded a bumper day of testing with 4156 COVID-19 tests conducted. The high number of tests explains the long-wait times yesterday morning at some testing centres.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said this morning on breakfast radio there was no apparent reason for the ‘mini-surge’, although noted Monday mornings are often busy at testing clinics.

She said all ACT Government testing centres are staffed appropriately.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman told reporters today that while testing numbers had dropped to an average of 1,600 a day at the end of October, this had increased to around 2,600 a day since the start of November.

Both Dr Coleman and Ms Stephen-Smith reiterated that the government’s approach to its free COVID-19 testing had always been that it’s only available for those who are eligible (as in displaying symptoms or directed to get a test by local or interstate health authorities).

Anyone else requiring testing for reasons such as travel should visit their GP or organise it through a private pathology provider.

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In the week to Sunday night (14 November), the ACT recorded 87 cases, bringing the total since the outbreak began in August to 1,829. However, in the last week, Dr Coleman said the proportion of cases in younger age groups had dropped.

From late October, many cases were recorded in the population aged under 17, but this was now changing. Dr Coleman said it was more than likely due to secondary and household transmission from the school outbreaks and the easing of restrictions in the broader community.

Dr Coleman has also confirmed COVID-19 transmission on the campuses of five Canberra schools: Wanniassa School (Junior Campus), which now has 56 cases linked to it; Duffy Primary School with nine cases linked; as well as Erindale College, Mawson Primary School and Orana Steiner School, which all have less than five cases per school.

Dr Coleman said ACT Health will now change the way it reports COVID-19 cases in hospital to fall in step with the Commonwealth model, which was agreed upon by National Cabinet.

From today, hospitalisations will include active cases and cases that are cleared of their COVID-19 infection but remain in hospital after being permitted to leave isolation.

Currently, the ACT has four cases in hospital, with one in ICU being ventilated.

She also said ACT Health will now begin providing its detailed weekly epidemiological update online rather than via a press conference.

COVID-19 testing

Almost 1500 COVID negative tests were returned in the past day. Photo: ACT Health.

UPDATED 11 am: The ACT has recorded 12 new cases of COVID-19 to 8 pm last night.

A total of 1470 negative tests were returned in the past 24 hours.

Yesterday the ACT had 10 new cases.

There are 185 active cases in the ACT.

According to ACT Health, 96.5 per cent of Canberrans (aged 12 and above) are now fully vaccinated.

There are 210 people in hospital with COVID and 32 in ICU.

Of the state’s 16-plus population, 91.9 per cent are fully vaccinated, and 73.4 per cent of the 12 to 15 population are fully vaccinated.

Yesterday, NSW recorded 165 new cases and one death.

In Victoria, there are 797 new cases and eight deaths.

Yesterday, the state recorded 860 new cases and four deaths

Around 87 per cent of the state’s 12-plus population is now fully vaccinated.

rapid antigen covid test

The ACT Government is considering whether it could be beneficial to run a ‘test to stay’ rapid antigen testing pilot program at schools before the end of the year. Photo: Damien Larkins.

10 am: Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith has confirmed the government is considering whether or not it will run a rapid-antigen testing pilot program at an ACT school this year.

The pilot would be a ‘test to stay’ program, meaning any students identified as a contact of a positive case in a school will undergo rapid antigen testing in the morning before school. As long as the test comes back negative, students can attend school rather than need to quarantine.

Ms Stephen-Smith said keeping young people and children in school as much as possible had both learning and social benefits for them but noted there was a need to weigh up the mental health impact of needing to be tested every morning.

“We’re working through the logistics of that at the moment and working out whether it’s worth going through with a test of ‘test to stay’ rapid antigen testing this term, or whether it’s better off just watching what happens in NSW and Victoria,” Ms Stephen-Smith told reporters yesterday.

“That’s a very active conversation at the moment and we expect to make a decision in the next few days.”

Victoria has already started a program that allows children to return to childcare after only seven days of quarantine if they continue to take rapid antigen tests for the next week.

Ms Stephen-Smith again reminded the community that students should be kept home from school and be tested for COVID-19 if they are unwell.

It was revealed yesterday that 89 COVID-19 cases are now linked to the latest outbreaks in schools.

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In the aged care sector, at least five cases have been linked to the St Andrews Village aged care facility in Hughes. The facility has been placed into lockdown and visitors to the facility have been restricted.

New exposure sites have been added overnight to the COVID-19 website. These include gyms, hairdressers, bars and a cinema.

Anytime Fitness Weston is a close contact site for Tuesday, 9 November, between 6:30 am and 7:30 am, Wednesday, 10 November, between 6:30 am and 7:30 am, and Thursday, 11 November, between 6:30 am and 7:15 am.

The Palace Electric Cinemas screening of No Time to Die on Thursday, 11 November, between 6 pm and 8:45 pm is also a close contact exposure site, as is the Australian National University Sports Gym (Fencing Class) on Tuesday, 9 November, between 7:30 pm and 10 pm.

Bar Rochford has been added as a casual contact exposure site for Tuesday, 9 November, between 3 pm and 7 pm, Thursday, 11 November, between 5 pm and 7:30 pm, and Friday, 12 November, between 5:10 pm and 7 pm.

Token Arcade and Kitchen in the city is also a casual contact exposure site on Friday, 12 November, between 7 pm and 8 pm.

The other casual site is Jina’s Hair Salon in Macquarie on Thursday, 11 November, between 3:25 pm and 4:35 pm.

More to come.

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