Local transmission of COVID-19 confirmed from “unknown source”

Michael Weaver 5 May 2020
Dr Kerryn Coleman

Dr Kerryn Coleman has confirmed the ACT’s first case of local transmission of the COVID-19 virus from an unknown source in Canberra. Photo: File.

UPDATED 4:10 pm The ACT’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman, has confirmed the ACT’s first case of local transmission of the COVID-19 virus from an unknown source.

After almost three weeks of contact tracing and investigations by ACT Health staff, Dr Coleman today said they had not been able to find the person’s source of exposure to the virus.

“We actually haven’t found anybody who we know came into contact with this person and has evidence of having had the disease.

“We have not been able to find a source of exposure and this will now be classified as the ACT’s first case of local transmission from an unknown source,” Dr Coleman said.

“Because this is only one case, it does not mean we have community transmission in Canberra.

“It is an indicator, though, that there is the possibility for community transmission, which is why we need to continue with the great work we have been doing as a community to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the ACT.

“Social distancing and good hand and respiratory hygiene have been critical in helping us lower our rate of infection to where it is now.”

Dr Coleman said community transmission of the virus will only be confirmed once there are further large numbers of local transmissions occurring and a direct source of exposure cannot be identified.

This was one of two cases under investigation that had now been finalised. The other investigation was of a male nurse from the Intensive Care Unit of the Canberra Hospital who tested positive last week.

“In the case of the ICU staff member, we can confirm that this individual acquired COVID-19 from a close contact.”

Dr Coleman said contact tested had all but ruled out transmission of the virus within the hospital.

“It was from someone in their close contact circle,” she said.

“All the relevant contact tracing has been followed up and identified, but none of it was associated with a person delivering their ICU care. Both individuals did all of the right things in their specific circumstances and I thank them for their diligence.”

The level of testing would be increased again next week to further confirm if community transmission of the virus was occurring.

“Over the next four weeks, our plan is to be comfortable with the fact that we have no undetected cases in the community. That will mean we need to go wider in our testing and we are just finalising the details of what that will look like to make sure we have enough people and enough testing reactants to enable us to do that.

“We are in a very good position currently in the ACT, but we will also continue to review our surveillance methods, including our testing criteria, to make sure they continue to give us a good view of potential unknown cases of COVID-19 in our community,” Dr Coleman said.

Once again, there have been no new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the ACT in the past 24 hours. The ACT’s total is still 103.

There has only been one new case in the ACT in the past seven days.

A total of 81 people have recovered from COVID-19 and have been released from self-isolation.

There are currently two COVID-19 patients in Canberra hospitals. The remainder are isolating at home with ACT Health support.

The ACT has recorded three deaths, two of which have come from the Ruby Princess cruise ship.

The number of negative tests in the ACT is now 6651.

Further information about COVID-19 in the ACT can be found on the dedicated COVID- 19 website or the COVID-19 Helpline on 02 6207 7244 between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm daily.

ACT Health is also finalising details of a coronavirus tracing app that can be downloaded on mobile phones. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated he would like the app would be ready in a fortnight. The Australian Government believes it would need at least 40 per cent of Australians to voluntarily sign up for it to be effective. The app would be opt-in only and not mandatory.

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