UPDATED 2:30 pm: The ACT isn’t about to use the QR code in the Check In CBR app or a vaccine passport or ‘health pass’ to bestow privileges on vaccinated residents, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said at today’s COVID-19 briefing.
Mr Barr explained that the ACT’s high vaccination take-up, technical challenges, and human rights position meant the government was not considering that type of approach to ensure people were protected enough to move freely about the Territory.
He could understand why other jurisdictions may pursue this option in a bid to drive up vaccination rates but said it would be crazy to do this in the ACT.
“This is a solution waiting for a problem,” Mr Barr said, saying people could already download a vaccination certificate from Medicare to their phone.
Mr Barr said getting people to be vaccinated was not a problem in the ACT where the only issue is enough supply of vaccine, and where the rate will likely be 90 to 95 per cent.
He said the difference between 70 per cent and 80 per cent double dose vaccination was about 37,000 vaccinations or about five days’ worth of jabs.
“Why would we go through the entire rigmarole of putting in place such a complex set of systems with fraud risks, the compliance nightmare associated with it, for the sake of five days’ extra vaccine,” he said.
Mr Barr said the ACT was not about to give greater freedoms to fully vaccinated people when others had not had the opportunity to do so because of a lack of supply.
As a matter of principle, the ACT would never deny access to essential services or exclude people when there will be a variety of reasons why some people cannot get vaccinated.
Mr Barr said the government was not going to be a vaccination policeman, and if some businesses did require proof of vaccination from customers, the government was not going add another layer of compliance on the business.
He said there was a vaccination requirement in aged care settings and some sort of health pass might be considered in particular workplace settings but there would be no vaccination decree from government.
Mr Barr said a downloaded vaccination certificate could be linked to interstate apps for interstate travel but that was a matter for those governments.
UPDATED 12.30 pm: There are 15 new cases of COVID-19 in the ACT to 8:00 pm last night. Of these, 13 are linked, two are under investigation and five were in quarantine during their entire infectious period.
There are nine hospital patients and two people are in intensive care, including one at Calvary on ventilation.
“The next eight weeks are a race to get as many people fully vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Chief Minister Andrew Barr told today’s COVID-19 briefing.
“We can ease public health restrictions as the vaccination rate increases. We will need to maintain many public health measures for weeks ahead.”
The ACT Government’s next steps will be outlined on Tuesday (14 September), but Mr Barr characterised the use of vaccine passports, designed to encourage people to be vaccinated, as “a solution looking for a problem”.
“The only thing holding us back from 95 per cent vaccination is available vaccine supply. We don’t need a QR code and vaccine passport to drive up vaccination rates. That’s not an issue in the ACT,” he said.
A number of neighbouring NSW Local Government Areas including Yass Valley will come out of lockdown this weekend. Mr Barr said the changed regulations would be one of the risk factors the ACT Government would assess with regard to our own restrictions, but local public health conditions will be the more significant consideration.
“A word of caution would be that the virus is circulating in surrounding Local Government Areas and the ACT. If you’re watching from Yass, I wouldn’t be advising moving too far out of your LGA.”
A total of 3432 tests were carried out yesterday, providing a good level of surveillance across the Territory.
Mr Barr said that ACT Policing, WorkSafe and Access Canberra were pleased with business compliance, although there are still issues around staff checking in to work.
In residential aged care, 92 per cent of staff have received their first dose of vaccine and 90 per cent of residents are fully vaccinated.
Within the next 24 hours, the ACT will reach 50 per cent full vaccination rates. Mr Barr urged everyone in priority categories to come forward for vaccination.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Vanessa Johnston said the outbreak now totals 439 cases of whom 212 have recovered fully. Of the 13 traced cases, eight are household contacts. There is very little change to the age breakdown of COVID patients – the virus remains predominantly active among those below 44.
There are no additional public transmission sites; however, one new case has been linked to the Bright Bees early learning centre.
There is one new case linked to Bidfood at Fyshwick and three more at the Busy Bees childcare centre. Three previous cases have now been linked to Ainslie Village as a result of the surveillance testing carried out there.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith spoke about the new features on the Check In CBR app, which now includes exposure alerts and whether a site is a close or casual contact.
There is also a new Check In CBR card with a unique QR code that can be scanned using an individual business profile. Check-in information will be stored with ACT Health, like data from the app. This card will be available for those who cannot use the app on their phones. Details are on the COVID-19 website or by calling 5124 5000.
Ms Stephen-Smith noted that some people who have been unwell for days but haven’t been tested are presenting at emergency departments. While COVID can be safely managed at emergency departments, this presents a risk for more people.
“You may become quite unwell quite quickly. COVID is highly variable. It can be mild or severe and that can happen fast. The earlier we know, we can support you and protect our community,” she said.
UPDATED 11:55 am: The ACT has recorded 15 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8:00 pm last night.
Of the cases, 13 are linked and two are under investigation.
Five were in quarantine for the entirety of their infectious period but at least eight spent part of their infectious period in the community.
There are currently nine people in hospital with COVID-19, two are in intensive care and one requires ventilation.
Yesterday there were 3432 tests conducted, which Chief Minister Andrew Barr said gave a good level of surveillance.
ACT Policing conducted 433 traffic stops and issued four directions to leave the ACT.
Mr Barr said business compliance remains good.
At her daily COVID briefing, Premier Gladys Berejiklian reported that NSW had 1405 new cases and five COVID deaths – two men in their 80s, two women in their 70s and a woman in her 40s. There are currently 202 people in ICU with COVID.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has reported 324 new cases overnight.
Mr Andrews said he wasn’t surprised by the spike in numbers, Victoria’s biggest one-day spike since 14 August 2020.
“We are going to see cases go up because this virus is highly, highly contagious,” he said.
9:35 am: Supermarkets, petrol stations and pharmacies in Canberra’s north and south dominate the new exposure sites listed on the COVID-19 website this morning.
Close contact sites include the Woolworths and Coles supermarkets in Kippax and Kaleen respectively, petrol stations in Kambah and Conder, and pharmacies in Kaleen and Tuggeranong’s South.Point.
Exposure has also occurred at Officeworks in Belconnen.
The casual contact list also includes the ALDI supermarket at Westfield Belconnen and a bottle shop at Southlands in Mawson.
Most of the exposures are from last Saturday, but some go back as far as 26 August. Check the full list for exposure times at the ACT COVID-19 website.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the continuing number of infectious people in the community was a concern and reflected the nature of the delta variant,
“The speed of transmission, the speed at which people have a viral load and become infectious before they’re even aware they’ve been exposed to the virus, that’s much more with delta than it had been previously and, of course, the virus itself is much more infectious than it was previously,” she told ABC radio.
The ACT’s case numbers, while not skyrocketing, remain stubbornly at a level that will make it difficult to end the lockdown next week.
Ms Stephen-Smith urged people with even the mildest symptoms to not go to work or go out in the community, but get tested and isolate until getting a test result and symptoms subside.
She also warned people not to take overstep the mark when it came to gathering outside.
“We relaxed those gathering rules slightly so that people could, for their own mental health, catch up with a few other people on occasion, but not every day with a different group of people – that is absolutely not in the spirit of the public health directions and the lockdown, and it’s not going to help us get through this together,” she said.