3 September 2021

UPDATED: Berry says lockdown doesn't apply for those who aren't safe at home as domestic violence rates spike

| Lottie Twyford and Genevieve Jacobs
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Domestic Violence Crisis Service crisis worker

Authorities are concerned about the rise in incidences of domestic violence since the lockdown came into effect. Photo: Supplied.

UPDATED 3:45 pm: Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Yvette Berry have today both expressed their concerns regarding the increase in domestic violence in the ACT since the introduction of the lockdown.

The number of people in supported housing due to domestic violence increased by 75 per cent last month since the ACT lockdown began.

Both ministers urged people experiencing domestic violence to reach out to the many support services available, and Ms Berry pleaded with those people who are not feeling safe at home to leave their homes to seek help.

Ms Berry sought to make people aware that leaving your home because it is not safe is an essential reason to do so.

“Lockdown does not apply to people whose safety is being put at risk by staying at home.

“People can get support on how to leave their home safely from Domestic Violence Crisis Services 24/7 helpline on 6280 0900,” she said.

If people find themselves in an unsafe situation, they are urged to call 000 or attend the nearest police station.

Mr Barr said an increase in the rates of domestic violence was of concern as the Territory prepares for another two weeks of lockdown.

“There are many aspects of this experience that have significant mental health impacts and that have impacts in terms of family relationships.

“Domestic violence has been an issue in our society before the pandemic and it remains an issue now. It’s ongoing work for society and that it’s exacerbated in a pandemic highlights that it’s one of many challenges we are facing,” he said.

He added that the ACT Government would continue to liaise with their “outstanding community partners” as well as Commonwealth counterparts to provide support for individuals who are experiencing family violence, as well as continue to provide support for organisations that aim to prevent its occurrence.

READ ALSO How to make lockdown memorable for kids

The list of ACT COVID-19 exposure sites was updated this afternoon, although only one new casual contact exposure site was listed, and there are still no new close contact exposure sites.

Woolworths Dickson is now a casual contact exposure site on Wednesday, 1 September between 1:45 pm and 2:40 pm.

Anyone who was at the supermarket during this time is required to complete the declaration form and get tested immediately.

Anyone who visited locations in Narrabundah including the pharmacy and post office, the Friendly Grocer and La Cantina at the times listed on the website, must monitor for symptoms.

The same advice applies to BWS Dickson on Tuesday, 31 August from 5:10 pm to 6:00 pm.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support is also available through The Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 02 6247 2525, The Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT 02 6280 0900, and Lifeline: 13 11 14. In an emergency call 000.

Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr at this morning’s COVID-19 briefing. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

UPDATED 12:30 pm: There are 18 new cases of COVID-19 overnight but only three were fully quarantined during their infectious period. Chief Minister Andrew Barr said “the more troubling part is that 15 were unknowingly infectious in the community”.

And while testing numbers have increased slightly, Mr Barr warned that numbers are still too low at just 2754 yesterday.

Thirteen cases have been linked to current exposure sites and five are still under investigation. Ten people are in hospital and three are in intensive care. A man in his 20s is being ventilated.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said that the vast majority of cases are in people under 45 years of age. There are 14 public sites of transmission where multiple cases can be linked, highlighting the importance of the Check In CBR app for tracing.

There are two new public transmission sites.

Bidfood Canberra in Fyshwick is a transmission site for two new ACT cases and two cases from NSW.

There are also three cases linked to KFC at Dickson and two new cases have been identified at Ainslie Village. Multiagency support continues on-site at Ainslie.

The additional doses of Pfizer allocated to the ACT from the Commonwealth’s vaccine swap with Singapore will be used over the next two weeks to vaccinate Year 12 students at all schools and CIT sites as they prepare for AST assessments, HSC exams and IB tests in Term Four. All staff with direct student contact will also have priority access to vaccines through the AIS vaccination hub.

More than 90 per cent of Canberrans have indicated their intention to be vaccinated, Mr Barr said. A small number of people will be medically contraindicated, and a very small number of Canberrans will decline vaccination, ranging from people who don’t believe in vaccines or are conspiracy theorists.

“There is not too much point focussing time, energy and resources on people who believe this is a Bill Gates world conspiracy,” he said.

Mr Barr said that at today’s National Cabinet meeting he would seek to “put an end to the madness of media commentary and federal political commentary about being able to open the country at 70 per cent vaccination”.

The Chief Minister said that the Doherty Institute modelling no longer supports “anything crazy” happening at 70 per cent vaccination and a clear outcome would be to end that debate.

He urged businesses, in particular, to ensure that staff wear masks properly and for staff to check into their workplaces.

“You look like a bit of a dork going around with the mask under your chin and it serves no purpose,” he said.

Education Minister Yvette Berry said exam supervisors, teachers and all school staff with direct student contact will also have vaccination priority in an effort to return to face to face teaching as soon as possible. This will include early childhood centre staff. Eligible staff will be contacted with information about how to access priority appointments.

“Providing vaccine protection will support our young people who are planning for their future in unsettling and uncertain times,” Minister Berry said. Free public transport is available with proof of a vaccination appointment.

During the week of 13 to 17 September, students 12 years and older from the ACT’s specialist schools will be offered vaccination on site at Cranleigh, Malkara, Black Mountain and Woden. Flexible education students and students at Galilee will also be vaccinated in a program delivered by Aspen Medical.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the Garran Surge centre will return to an accessible walk-in testing centre from next week as the AIS hub ramps up. Testing services at Weston Creek will close, allowing it to return to operations as a walk-in and community health centre.

However, the access and sensory vaccination clinic will remain at Garran for the time being. Ms Stephen-Smith said the surge centre has played an important service delivery role across its various functions.

Children five and over can now be tested at the EPIC, Kambah and Brindabella Park sites as more staff have been trained in testing techniques for younger children.

11:55 am: The ACT has recorded 18 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours.

Thirteen are linked to current or identified close contacts. Five are under investigation.

Of concern to Chief Minister Andrew Barr is that only three of the 18 were in quarantine during their infectious period and 15 were in the community unknowingly.

There are 10 people in hospital with COVID-19. Three are in intensive care and one requires ventilation.

A total of 2754 tests were conducted yesterday – up about 10 per cent on the day before but Mr Barr would like to see more people come forward faster if they begin to exhibit symptoms.

Earlier today, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a record number of new cases – 1431 – and 12 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Victoria reported 208 new cases and one death.

More to come.

Cooleman Court

Several different locations within Cooleman Court and Weston Creek have been listed as close or ‘monitor’ locations. Photo: Region Media.

9:30 am: While there have been no new close contact exposure sites listed overnight, several new casual contact locations are now on the ACT’s COVID-19 exposure location list.

Bidfoood Canberra, a wholesale food supplier in Fyshwick, is now a casual exposure location for seven days in a row from Wednesday, 25 August to Tuesday, 31 August, 5:30 am to 12:30 pm every day.

Other new casual exposure sites in Canberra’s north include SupaExpress Florey on Monday, 30 August from 5:40 pm to 6:45 pm and Nandos Canberra Centre on Friday, 27 August 2021.

On the Southside, Domino’s Pizza Mawson on Thursday, 26 August from 1:30 pm to 2:00 pm, Woolworths Woden on Saturday, 28 August from 4:20 pm to 5:20 pm and Cooleman Court Shopping Centre public toilets on Tuesday, 31 August from 12:15 pm to 12:45 pm are all listed as casual contact exposure sites.

Casual contacts must complete the ACT contact declaration form and get tested immediately. The number of tests required depends on how many days ago you were at the location.

READ ALSO Out of iso, ‘patient-zero’ still battling fatigue but moving on

Locations in Weston Creek, Commonwealth Bank Dickson, St George Bank Fyshwick and Bridgestone Select Tuggeranong have all been listed in the ‘monitor for symptoms’ category.

Authorities have expressed their concern in the past few days at the low testing numbers.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said this morning while speaking on breakfast radio that anyone with the mildest of cold and flu symptoms must get tested.

However, she urged non-symptomatic people who have not been to any of the exposure locations listed not to get tested.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr MLA speaking at the midday press conference yesterday. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

At yesterday’s COVID briefing, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that the 2500 tests carried out in the previous 24 hours was not enough.

Yesterday, the ACT recorded 12 new cases, and there are now four cases in intensive care.

Two of these cases are currently being ventilated. One is a 24-year-old man whose mother took to social media yesterday to urge people to get vaccinated.

“Your family is so important. Hold them when you can,” her comment read.

Over 60s who have not yet received a first dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine can expect to receive a letter from the Federal Government encouraging them to book an appointment.

More than half a million people are expected to receive the letter.

READ ALSO Here’s everything you need to know about the changes to the ACT’s COVID-19 rules

Ms Stephen-Smith this morning urged this cohort not to wait for Pfizer to become available as she said this was unlikely to occur until after younger cohorts had been vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna.

“AstraZeneca is still your best shot,” she said.

She said that if you are over 60 and your GP has recommended that you not get AstraZeneca, your GP must contact ACT Health’s clinical vaccination team to discuss this further.

“The person themselves cannot do this with a recommendation, it needs to come from the GP and they must meet strict criteria,” she said.

She acknowledged that the community has been hearing mixed messages about AstraZeneca in particular.

Ms Stephen-Smith also flagged that discussions regarding mandatory vaccinations for sectors such as health care and disability support are underway. Mr Barr has previously noted that vaccines will not become mandatory until everyone has had the chance to access them.

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