Updated 3.10 pm, Monday. With a few notable exceptions, the Chief Minister says that Canberrans have largely done the right thing over Easter and stayed home. But the lure of the Lake run and flat-pack shopping have both caused concern and ACT Policing has turned back a small number of vehicles heading out of the city, including one towing a caravan.
ACT Health has announced one new case of COVID-19 in Canberra and says they should have results soon for one of the two cases still under investigation.
The ACT’s total number of confirmed cases is now 103.
The new case is a female in her 50s who was a close contact of a confirmed case. Three COVID-19 patients are receiving treatment in Canberra hospitals while 72 people have fully recovered and been released from self-isolation. The remaining patients continue to isolate at home with ACT Health support. There have been 6191 negative tests in the ACT and two deaths.
Speaking at a press conference today, Chief Minister Andrew Barr thanked Canberrans for playing their part in physical distancing over Easter. He confirmed that as of Monday afternoon (13 April), nobody had been fined for breaching restrictions.
“It’s fantastic to see people out and about around the Lake and the bridge to bridge walk,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with that 5 km circuit, but you defeat the whole purpose if you are all crammed together on the bridges or stairs. Stay apart.”
Mr Barr said that Canberrans also “love flat-pack furniture shopping out near Canberra airport”. But he reminded Canberrans that “that shop will be there for days, weeks, months and years ahead. Think about when you need to go”.
“There are things people need to do over long weekends, but the fantastic work of the last few weeks can be undone by one large crowd gathering.”
Mr Barr said ACT Police had reported “a very positive response over the long weekend” as they’ve spoken to people about the purpose of their travel although several vehicles, including one towing a caravan, have been turned around. Gatherings of people at skate parks have also been moved on by police.
“Three people is a crowd at the moment,” Mr Barr said. “There are some sections of the community for whom this is only just beginning to sink in.”
But Mr Barr was clear that the ACT is not looking at lifting gathering restrictions at any time soon. Changes would be made in consultation with the national cabinet, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (the key decision-making committee for health emergencies) and the NSW Government. The next projected review of restrictions is at the end of April.
He also expressed scepticism about the NRL’s plans to resume competition at the end of May.
“I don’t blame them for wanting to plan and restart, every sporting code wants that. But from this vantage point that seems highly unlikely,” he said.
Acting Chief Health Officer Vanessa Johnston said that after two weeks, ACT Health is close to finalising investigations into one of two cases where the cause of transmission was unclear. ACT Health is awaiting final tests results from Westmead and Dr Johnston said those results should be available this week.
However, a second case involving a staff member in the intensive care unit at Canberra Hospital is still in the early stages of investigation.
Dr Johnston said that as a result of this case, six Canberra Hospital staff are now in quarantine.
The quarantine of the six staff follows today’s closure of two hospitals in Tasmania – the North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie – due to coronavirus. The hospitals are shut for a ‘deep clean’, according to the Premier of Tasmania, Peter Gutwein.
But while the northern Tasmania outbreak is very concerning, Dr Johnston said there were no indications that a similar situation was likely in the ACT.
“The staff member in question did everything right in not returning to work,” she said. “As far as I’m aware she is doing well at home.”
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith thanked public and clinical health response teams, frontline health staff and all those who have worked through the Easter weekend to keep essential services running.
“The fact that we have one new case who is a close contact of an existing known case and two days of zero new cases reflects the hard work Canberrans have been doing,” she said.
For further information visit www.covid19.act.gov.au or call the helpline on 02 6207 7244 between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm daily. You can also call the Australian Government’s 24-hour Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.