The ACT's coronavirus crisis is deepening as it's announced that confirmed cases have doubled overnight. Chief Minister Andrew Barr has urged Canberrans to halt all non essential travel. Genevieve Jacobs has more. http://ow.ly/QUrS50yScpr
Posted by The RiotACT on Saturday, March 21, 2020
Updated 5:35 pm, March 22: Following the announcement at midday that the ACT’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have doubled, there is a further diagnosis at Lyneham High where a student has tested positive. Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the student had attended school last Tuesday and may have been infectious at the time.
Lyneham High will be closed to all staff and students on Monday, to enable contact tracing and cleaning. All ACT schools will be pupil free from Tuesday until the school holidays begin, Education minister Yvette Berry said late this afternoon.
Updated 3:30 pm, March 22: ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman has announced ten new cases of coronavirus in the ACT. The significantly increased number of confirmed cases brings the ACT’s total to 19 as of midday today.
But Dr Coleman was adamant that at this stage there is no evidence of community transmission occurring in the ACT.
Contact tracing is still taking place, but the significant surge in infections appears to still be almost wholly confined to people who have returned from overseas very recently or have had close contact with someone who has done so.
The new cases include seven males and three females, aged between 21 and 67 years.
ACT Health says that of the 10 new cases, they can confirm that eight cases are linked directly to overseas travel. One case is directly linked to a previously confirmed coronavirus diagnosis and a further case follows interstate travel from Queensland.
Dr Coleman thanked Canberrans who are self-isolating and noted that there has not been a problem with enforcing quarantine measures in the ACT. She emphasised the need to continue social distancing measures at all times.
“As the pandemic continues we will continue to see new confirmed cases and endeavour to keep you informed throughout”, she told a press conference today. “I take this opportunity to reassure you that ACT Health is working tirelessly to make contact with contacts of confirmed cases as a priority”.
Dr Coleman said that the testing criteria for COVID 19 is being expanded and there is a renewed supply of testing reagents, enabling the ACT to strengthen its capacity to identify possible community transmission earlier.
The three new categories are: patients with an acute respiratory illness or unexplained fever; people with the above conditions in high-risk settings (for example nursing homes, residential care facilities or cruise ships) and patients with reported links to settings where outbreaks have happened.
Dr Coleman said the latter criteria acknowledged that there are some places in Australia where there is a risk of community transmission, for example, cruise ships, northern Sydney and some parts of Queensland.
People who are in self-isolation in the ACT are on a close contact database and are being contacted with a daily SMS enquiring about their wellbeing and that of anyone in their families so that testing can be arranged immediately if they become unwell. That includes following up a close contact with a Ruby Princess cruise ship passenger.
“The community is coming along with us on this and doing what’s needed”, Dr Coleman said.
Speaking today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged all Australians to reconsider non-essential domestic travel including interstate and holiday trips.
Mr Morrison said Australians should “exercise their common sense” in deciding what essential travel is, but added that anyone who has interstate trips planned for the school holidays should cancel them and that any other trips outside normal routines should also be postponed.
The guidelines do not apply to people travelling for work, Mr Morrison said.
“Essential travel, what we’re referring to, is for work-related activities that are essential – it could be compassionate grounds, issues of those types of arrangements,” he said.
Earlier today, South Australian premier Steven Marshall announced that the state would close its borders and that the police commissioner would declare a major emergency in South Australia, revoking the public health emergency which was previously declared.
“What we have seen in recent days is an increasing number of people who have contracted the virus from people visiting from interstate and South Australians who have been interstate, returning to South Australia. This has forced our decision to close our borders in South Australia. We make this decision in the interest of public health in South Australia,” he said.
Further details about the 10 new ACT cases are yet to emerge, and ACT Health says that information regarding flight details will be uploaded to www.health.act.gov.au website shortly. If you have recently travelled anywhere on a plane to Canberra, ACT Health recommends checking the site for details.
There have been 2,395 negative COVID-19 tests in the ACT as at 12:00 noon on Sunday, 22 March.
There are currently two COVID-19 patients being cared for in hospital in Canberra. The remainder of the current cases are isolating at home with the support of ACT Health.
ACT Health is continuing to take appropriate public health action in line with national guidelines and has provided comprehensive advice regarding how to self-quarantine on their website.
People who are concerned and want further information on the virus can contact the Australian Government’s Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.