7 April 2020

One new coronavirus case diagnosed in ACT as infection rate continues to slow

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COVID-19 Drive Through Screening Sign

COVID-19 Drive Through Screening Sign. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

There’s been one new case of COVID-19 recorded in the ACT in the past 24 hours, bringing the ACT’s total to 97.

ACT Health says that in common with the vast majority of ACT diagnoses, there is a close link with overseas travel.

The new confirmed case is a female in her 70s who was a close contact of a previous confirmed case. Six COVID-19 patients remain in hospital in Canberra and three people are in intensive care (ICU). Two cases remain under investigation for potential community transmission.

A total of 42 cases have recovered from COVID-19 and have been released from self-isolation. The remainder are isolating at home with ACT Health support.

There have been 5497 negative COVID-19 tests in the ACT to date.

Acting ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Vanessa Johnston has reminded all Canberrans that, hard as it is, everyone must comply with the rules on physical distancing and staying at home.

“We are most certainly flattening the curve; however, many jurisdictions are still seeing a spread of the disease so we must not become complacent,” Dr Johnston said.

“Please stay home this Easter long weekend. Do not think it is safe to travel down the coast or interstate or gather with family and friends. Please find other ways that you can connect with your loved ones over this Easter period.

“Continue with physical distancing measures as well as maintaining excellent hand and respiratory hygiene practices. Each of these will lessen the impact on our health system when community transmission does occur here in Canberra.”

Physical distancing and isolation measures are set to be in place throughout winter while vaccines and treatment options continue to be worked on, Chief Minister Andrew Barr confirmed.

“We have done well to date,” Mr Barr said.

“We have managed to get ourselves on a lifeboat now, while other countries are still in the water struggling. We have bought ourselves time for our health system, for a vaccine, and for treatments.”

But we cannot slacken the rope now, he said (although Mr Barr did confirm that the Easter Bunny was considered an essential service here in the ACT and would be travelling to as many houses as possible over the weekend).

The ACT Health system continues to prepare its ICU capabilities ahead of winter, which traditionally sees a spike in demand because of influenza. Nationally, the states and territories are working towards a capacity of 7,000 beds, and the ACT’s share of this is 170 – compared to our usual 50.

While Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the ACT can already double its capacity “very quickly”, the CEO of Canberra Health Services, Bernadette McDonald, says the ACT is working on a regional approach to more than triple its capacity.

The situation is being managed across both the public and private health systems in Canberra, and machines can be repurposed to expand capacity, but the ACT’s expansion relies heavily on our ability to access more equipment such as ventilators, which are coordinated nationally, Ms McDonald said.

More information will soon be made available to Canberrans about the spread of COVID-19 in the Territory as calls continue for heat mapping to more accurately determine hotspots.

Ms Stephen-Smith said more detailed breakdowns of the data would be released on the ACT Health website in the coming days, but stressed it would not be broken down to a postcode level.

The low figures across Canberra could skew the data and mislead the public about where hotspots are occurring, she said. Data will instead be broken down to an SA3 level – or in everyday terms – areas like Belconnen, Gungahlin or Tuggeranong.

The Federal Health Department is also updating a COVID-19 infographic on its website daily to give people a quick overview of the situation across the nation.

For ACT information go to the ACT Health website.

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We cannot accept these dictatorial measures are necessary when the modelling they are supposed to be based on is not released for public and professional scrutiny. They are so afraid their worst case scenarios and dubious data models will be found faulty if subjected to peer review.

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