4 February 2021

New quarantine requirements for Canberrans returning from Melbourne hotspots

| Dominic Giannini
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Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the Chief Health Officer has signed a new public health direction. Photo: Region Media.

People in Canberra who have been to one of more than a dozen identified Melbourne public exposure sites visited by a contagious COVID-19 patient must immediately quarantine for 14-days and get tested.

Non-residents who have been to these sites and are not in Canberra will now be barred from entering the ACT while returning residents will need to fill out a self-declaration form and self-isolate upon arrival.

Anyone who has been to these sites in Melbourne since 29 January is asked to monitor the Victorian and ACT Health websites as more sites are listed.

A full list of Victorian exposure sites can be found here.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said a self-declaration system for people arriving from Melbourne to allow health officials to disseminate information to close contacts quicker as more sites are identified was not needed in the ACT due to the low possibility of transmission.

“It is quite a significant administration job, lots of people travel between the ACT and Melbourne and because of the speed with which this case has been identified, and authorities have responded, the Chief Health Officer’s view at the moment is that there is not a risk of broader transmission beyond people who might have been at the exposure sites because of the incubation period,” she said.

“We know that this person started experiencing symptoms on 30 January and was identified as a case yesterday (3 February) – the likelihood of two chains of transmission occurring during that period is very, very low.

“If that case had transmitted the virus to someone at the exposure site, the likelihood of [the second person] having transmitted to [another person] is very, very low.”

People who have been to the identified exposure sites will join the 544 people who remain in quarantine in the ACT – 428 of whom are people who returned from interstate hotspots such as parts of Western Australia.

Travellers who have been in certain areas of WA since 25 January continue to be required to self-quarantine and get tested.

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The ACT remains free of COVID-19 cases, and waste-water tests in the Belconnen area have returned negative results after fragments of the virus were found in a sewage sample collected on 27 January.

The positive wastewater test was most likely from a positive case who had recovered but was still shedding fragments of the virus, Ms Stephen-Smith said.

She also confirmed that the ACT Government is continuing to work with the Commonwealth on the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia had secured an extra 10 million doses of the Pfizer jab.

“We are expecting the first lot of Pfizer vaccines in that mid-to-late February period, and the first hub to be set up for that vaccine will be at Canberra Hospital, but it will be a relatively small group of people who will be called in to get vaccinated in that first couple of weeks,” she said.

“I know it is a bit frustrating not to have more information at this point in time about when you might be able to get vaccinated, but if you are not in one of those category 1A or 1B groups, you are probably going to be waiting a little bit longer.”

“While it is important that people have confidence in the vaccination program and that people are willing to be vaccinated, there is also no need for people to be too concerned about the timeline because we are managing COVID so well in Australia and in the ACT.”

Vaccine rollout timeline

Vaccine rollout strategy timeline. Image: Australian Government.

The Commonwealth Government will spend $24 million informing Australians about the vaccine and encouraging the public to get vaccinated.

ACT Health will also run its own public information campaign and focus more on the logistics of where Canberrans can get vaccinated and Territory-specific alerts about who can access vaccinations and when.

More information about COVID-19 restrictions in Canberra and the vaccine rollout in the ACT can be found at www.covid19.act.gov.au.

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