UPDATED 2 pm: Chief Minister Andrew Barr says that plans to end the ACT’s lockdown on 15 October are still on track, despite a record-equalling 52 new COVID-19 cases overnight.
Mr Barr told today’s COVID briefing that the ongoing review of case numbers is counterbalanced by vaccination rates, which now total more than 92 per cent for first doses. The ACT is on a “very encouraging” track for full vaccination rates of more than 95 per cent of the 12-plus population through October.
“It’s why we only made a cautious and small set of changes yesterday, and why the first step out of lockdown on October 15 is a cautious small step forward,” Mr Barr said.
More significant changes don’t begin until the end of October, by which time the 26 per cent of people who have not yet received their second dose should have completed their vaccination schedule.
The Chief Minister said that he was “very conscious” of implications for the health system when the anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases begins.
In the ACT, 10 per cent of all COVID-19 cases currently require hospitalisation, although the national data is close to 13 per cent. Mr Barr said it was possible that the Territory’s high vaccination rate was already conferring a protective effect.
“To put simply why vaccination matters, for every thousand people who are vaccinated, there are around a hundred fewer hospital presentations and probably 10 fewer ICU presentations,” he said.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said that although she had also been initially somewhat surprised by the high case numbers for a second day, there would be no change to current advice on easing out of restrictions from 15 October.
The majority of ACT cases continue to occur through household transmission and Dr Coleman said that was almost impossible to control. Rising case numbers in Queanbeyan and surrounding NSW, and significant demand on the ACT’s health system, were also being monitored carefully.
“The political disruption in NSW and uncertainty creates another layer of uncertainty, but I would not want anyone to get the impression we are walking away from anything we’ve committed to at the moment,” Mr Barr said, although he would “prefer case numbers in the teens, not the 50s”.
Mr Barr conceded that he had been somewhat shocked by the second day of very high numbers.
“In emoji terms, it was a bit of a wide-eyed response. That’s a high number, higher than we’d like,” he said.
“That’s why we’ve been very clear we are still in lockdown. The next two weeks are really important, so 50 cases don’t become 100. We don’t want that. That’s in the hands of Canberrans.
“Don’t take risks this long weekend.”
Suburbs with new exposure locations linked to confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the ACT include casual sites in Belconnen, Canberra City, Garran, Greenway, Wanniassa and monitor for symptoms sites in Canberra City, Fyshwick, Narrabundah, Phillip and Wanniassa.
Coles at Wanniassa is a casual exposure site on Wednesday between 5:50 pm and 7:00 pm, as is Vodafone at Westfield Belconnen on Wednesday between 11:15 am and 12:30 pm.
The Brindabella Endoscopy Centre at Suite 7, Level 1, 5 Dann Close, Garran is a casual exposure site on Tuesday between 12:30 pm and 4:50 pm, as is Level 3 of the Department of Social Services in Greenway on Sunday between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm.
The ACT Law Courts Foyer, the new Supreme Court and new waiting area outside the Supreme Court are all casual exposure sites on Friday between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm.
UPDATED 12:30 pm: The ACT has a record-equalling 52 cases of COVID-19, of which 30 are linked and 22 remain under investigation. Ten people were in quarantine for the entirety of their infectious period but at least 29 were infectious in the community.
Fourteen of these linked cases are household contacts.
Thirteen people are in hospital, three of whom are in intensive care, all requiring ventilation. Yesterday, 3241 tests were carried out.
Two more cases are associated with the Canberra Hospital, although neither are included in today’s numbers. More details will be available tomorrow.
“The next two weeks are very important for us to reach important vaccination milestones,” Chief Minister Andrew Barr told today’s COVID briefing. It’s anticipated that around 32,000 Canberrans will receive their second dose of vaccine, the overwhelming majority under 40.
“Last month was a very tough month for the city, but signs are that with strong vaccination programs, by the end of October and into November and summer, better times are ahead,” Mr Barr said.
All state and territory health ministers have written to the Commonwealth requesting urgent assistance for the anticipated surge in COVID patients. The request includes crisis funding, support for management in the community, discharge delays for aged care and NDIS participants, and funding to extend the operation of existing mental health support across all jurisdictions.
“We won’t cope without it,” Mr Barr said, describing the alternative as a crisis for the ACT’s health systems.
The funding would be a three-way government responsibility, including NSW. Mr Barr said that standard practice assumes 25 per cent of all hospital patients and 50 per cent of intensive care patients in Canberra hospitals are from NSW, and COVID numbers would be similar if not higher.
Depending on how long the pandemic continues, the costs for the ACT health system could run to the “tens if not hundreds of millions over a year or more depending on how long we need to surge”, Mr Barr said.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the total outbreak is now at 939 cases, with 319 active cases.
“I can assure you we do continue to watch our daily case numbers as we ease out of lockdown,” she said, adding that the numbers aren’t unexpected but may be rising a little earlier than anticipated.
More details on the outbreak’s epidemiology are expected on Tuesday.
Mr Barr said that the Territory vaccination program was shifting towards predominantly second doses.
Of the eligible population, 63 per cent are now fully vaccinated, and 92 per cent have received their first dose of vaccine.
National Cabinet met yesterday, although Mr Barr said that due to the political upheaval in NSW yesterday and the time at which many papers had been provided, a number of issues could not be resolved.
However, Cabinet was briefed on plans to increase vaccination for disabled and Indigenous people and received preliminary advice from ATAGI on booster vaccine doses.
Further advice on third doses for specified individuals is expected in October. Mr Barr said significant planning is underway on booster and third shot programs for late 2021, subject to final ATAGI advice.
National Cabinet was also updated on the most recent Doherty Institute modelling and heard about the case initiated tracing system used in NSW and how this can assist public health responses when there are very high case numbers.
UPDATED 11:55 am: The ACT has again recorded 52 new cases of COVID-19.
Yesterday, there were 52 cases and two deaths.
Of the new cases, 30 are linked to known cases and 22 are under investigation.
Ten were in quarantine for the entirety of their infectious period but at least were 29 in the community.
There are 13 people in hospital with COVID-19, three are in ICU and all require ventilation.
A total of 3241 tests were conducted yesterday and the list of exposure sites has grown due to the increased case numbers.
NSW recorded 813 cases and 10 deaths. Four people were not vaccinated, five had received one dose, and one of the people who died had been fully vaccinated.
Yesterday there were 941 cases and six deaths.
Victoria recorded 1488 cases – a daily record for the state – and two deaths.
Yesterday the state had 1438 cases and five deaths.
After the ACT’s largest number of new COVID-19 infections yesterday, there are multiple new exposure sites including construction, and childcare sites, according to ACT Health.
The ACT recorded a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases yesterday with an all-time high of 52 diagnoses. There have been two further deaths among the Calvary Haydon aged care cluster, both residents in their 80s who had been receiving end of life care.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr will provide an update at today’s COVID briefing at 11:45 am following a lengthy National Cabinet meeting yesterday that considered issues ranging from new Doherty Institute modelling to authenticated vaccination records.
Suburbs with new exposure locations linked to confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the ACT include Canberra City, Chifley, Holt, Mawson, Deakin, Fyshwick and Kingston.
However, only Sage Education and Childcare at 14 Wales Street in Belconnen is a close exposure site for Wednesday and part of Thursday.
The Scott’s Crossing Construction Site in the Canberra Centre at 148 Bunda Street is a casual exposure site for Tuesday and Wednesday between 6:45 am and 4:30 pm.
Other new casual exposure sites include A Bite to Eat Cafe at 8 Chifley Place, Chifley on Wednesday from 5:10 pm to 8 pm. Anyone who was at the cafe between 8:55 am and 9:40 am on the same day should also monitor for symptoms.
Woolworths Metro Hawker at Springvale Drive, Hawker is a casual exposure site on Tuesday between 10:50 am and 11:45 am. Woolworths at 15 Mawson Place, Mawson is also a casual exposure site on Tuesday between 3:40 pm and 4:30 pm.
Clinic 88 at 1/12 Furzer Street, Phillip is a casual exposure site on Monday between 2 pm and 3:30 pm, as is McDonald’s Kippax between 9 pm and 11:59 pm on Monday, YourGP@Denman on Friday, 24 September, between 12:35 pm and 1:35 pm and 80/20 Food Kingston on Thursday between 8 am and 2:45 pm.
There are multiple monitor for symptoms sites across the city, including EQ Bakehouse, Gelato Messina Kingston, 7-Eleven Holt, Capital Chemist Coombs, Share Tea Dickson and the Hawker Discount Drug Store.
In Fyshwick, several trade stores, including Specfast, Sydney Tools and NewTotal Tools are monitor for symptoms sites.
Check the covid19.act.gov.au for the full details of exposure locations and times.