15 September 2021

UPDATED: National vax rate to impact ACT lockdown timing; asymptomatic breakthrough cases concerning

| Dominic Giannini
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT needed to be cognisant of national vaccination rates to reduce the spread of the virus. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT would wait until the nation eclipsed the 70 per cent fully vaccinated threshold before moving to ease local restrictions, despite the estimated three-week gap from when the Territory reaches the milestone and vaccine efficacy.

When questioned over why national vaccination rates should impact local restrictions, Mr Barr said the ACT needed to be cognisant of national vaccination rates to ensure people coming into the Territory had similar vaccination levels to reduce the spread of the virus.

“We are part of the nation. We are an island jurisdiction inside NSW without the capacity to have hard borders so we also need the population that is coming into the city to be vaccinated as well,” he said.

“We have the responsibilities in relation to our national capital status to ensure the smooth functioning of the Australian democracy.

“It is not just Parliamentarians, it is also all of their staff and Commonwealth bureaucrats who need to move all around the country. We [also] regularly have international delegations [and] ministers returning from overseas who need to quarantine.”

The decision to move to the next phase of lockdown once vaccination thresholds have been reached will also be based on local case numbers and the Territory’s ability to test, trace, isolate and quarantine new cases.

Health authorities are increasingly concerned about asymptomatic transmission from vaccinated Canberrans, with most of the people who have been infectious in the community not being aware they are carrying the virus.

Mr Barr said rapid antigen testing would form part of the solution to this problem late into spring and into summer as he acknowledged that there will be breakthrough infections among vaccinated people.

This was a contributing factor for not giving fully vaccinated people more freedom while the ACT’s vaccination rates lag behind the 70 and 80 per cent thresholds.

When asked whether the plateauing numbers and continual increase in vaccination meant the ACT would not be able to further reduce cases due to asymptomatic transmission, Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Vanessa Johnston said the ACT would consider more than just daily cases when reviewing lockdown restrictions.

“Once we get to high levels of vaccination coverage, those trains of transmission will be interrupted so it will not have the same consequence,” Dr Johnston said.

“That is what the modelling tells us.”

Focus this week has been on the ACT’s roadmap out of the current lockdown after Mr Barr announced an extension to 15 October, along with some easing of restrictions.

In the lead up to yesterday’s (14 September) press conference, Mr Barr repeatedly said he did not want to pre-empt which restrictions would be eased, explaining that a more detailed plan would be unveiled on Tuesday.

Businesses and the Canberra Liberals expressed disappointment in the plan, criticising it for being too vague and not attaching any concrete easing of restrictions to vaccination targets.

The plan said that the ACT would be in “a positive position” to ease restrictions locally once the nation and the Territory reached the thresholds.

When asked whether the announcement was billed as a more concrete plan only to disappoint compared to NSW attaching more than a dozen “freedoms” to the 70 per cent threshold, Mr Barr said the plan had been miscategorised.

“It was the media that categorised it as a roadmap. We said it was a pathway forward [to] outline our next steps,” he said. “It is challenging to communicate this level of information and detail this far out from making decisions.

“NSW has put something out there, and I do not criticise them for having a go, but what I will not stand for is that [the NSW plan] is characterised as some concrete roadmap that outlines every step because it does not.

“NSW has put in place a range of measures that are a month away with heavily caveated local circumstances and variances within their own state. It is not a detailed roadmap for the future; it is a guess about what could happen in four weeks time.”

Mr Barr said any movement away from the current restrictions would be flagged around a week ahead.

The next steps include increased home visitation numbers, larger gatherings, increased business density limits and a phased return to the office and face to face schooling.

Andrew Barr

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

UPDATED 12:30 pm: The ACT has recorded 13 new cases of COVID-19 overnight.

Eight are close household contacts; eight spent part of their infectious period in the community.

And as seven new COVID diagnoses have been recorded today in surrounding southern NSW, Chief Minister Andrew Barr noted at today’s press briefing that cases are “lighting up everywhere” across the ACT’s borders, with likely implications for Canberra’s tertiary health care capacity as the year goes on.

“This is one of the toughest moments in our city’s history,” Mr Barr said.

“I want people to know it is OK to reach out and ask for help if you need it. There will be better times ahead for Canberra. Our vaccination milestones are in sight. We need to work towards a safer Christmas for everyone.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Vanessa Johnston said that there are still 50 unknown cases in the ACT.

“This means there are cases that we are not aware of,” she said.

“If we were to relax restrictions now, we risk this outbreak escalating at a time when not enough of us are vaccinated. There would be a proportion of people with severe disease outcomes including hospitalisation, intensive care and death,” Dr Johnston said.

Yesterday, 3311 tests were conducted, giving good surveillance of the disease. Around 4000 vaccine doses were administered in ACT Government clinics, 39 per cent of which were second doses.

In the ACT, 75 per cent of people in the 12-plus population have now received their first doses.

However, 70,000 people are still waiting on their first dose at ACT Government clinics.

Mr Barr said the balance of the vaccination program will now begin shifting to second doses and will pick up speed significantly. The government anticipates that when the 70 and 80 per cent milestones are reached, the vaccination program will put the city in a strong position to return to COVID-normal life as soon as possible.

“While COVID continues to circulate in our community and across the border and we are increasing our vaccination coverage, restrictions need to remain in place,” Mr Barr said.

But the ACT is not anticipating that Canberrans will need proof of vaccination to access public and private services.

When looking to changes to public health measures, Mr Barr said the government would consider local and national vaccination rates, community transmission and especially the proportion of people who are infectious in the community, testing times, the ability to test trace isolate and quarantine, how well business is complying, data on the effective reproduction rate and transmission potential within the community.

At this point, restrictions will ease as they did last year, including home visitation numbers, gathering sizes and density limits on businesses. Limits are likely to continue in high-risk venues, including residential aged care, hospitals and jails, and it’s likely that return to work will be gradual.

Mr Barr said each phase would be advised in advance.

“Right now, we need to give more than 100,000 Canberrans the opportunity to get vaccinated in the next four weeks as we suppress our current outbreak,” he said.

The government continues to work with the Commonwealth on business support and there is no need to reapply for increased grants. The Commonwealth has indicated likely further increases to business support grants at the two-week checkpoint on 1 October.

Larger ACT businesses will be able to access top-up payments and there will be additional support for local businesses that have been particularly hard hit, including tourism, arts, events and hospitality, all of which sustained a tough few months ahead of the local lockdown.

There are now 290 active public exposure locations, including some areas of the ACT Magistrates Court. No new cases have been linked to existing sites.

Dr Johnston asked anyone with symptoms to be tested immediately and go home immediately while awaiting results.

“We are still seeing people who are infectious and attending essential work,” she said. “This is why social restrictions are so important while we are working towards our vaccination goals.

“We know lockdown is hard, but if we continue to do the right thing and stay the course, we will be in a stronger position in the weeks to come.”

UPDATED 11:55 am: The ACT has announced 13 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.

Eight are linked to close household contacts and five remain under investigation.

Five were in quarantine for the entirety of their infectious period and eight spent part of their infectious period in the community.

Seven people are currently in hospital with COVID and one is in ICU requiring ventilation.

Yesterday the ACT recorded 22 new cases.

Over 4000 vaccine doses were administered in ACT Government clinics yesterday: 61 per cent received first doses and 39 per cent received second doses.

Currently, around 75 per cent of people aged 12 and over have been given at least one dose of a vaccine.

Around 70,000 people are waiting for a first dose in ACT Government facilities and tens of thousands more will receive their first dose from primary care providers.

In NSW, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced 1259 new cases and 12 deaths. There are currently 1,241 cases in hospital, 234 people in ICU and 108 on ventilators.

NSW had also reached 80 per cent single-dose vaccination on Monday, with 47.5 per cent of adults double dosed.

There were 1127 cases and two deaths yesterday.

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews announced 423 new COVID cases and two deaths.

Around 67.7 per cent of eligible Victorians have received one dose of vaccine and 41.4 per cent have been fully vaccinated.

There were 445 new cases and two deaths yesterday.

Nurse preparing COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine

Staff at the AIS mass vaccination clinic had to dispose of 170 jabs after the clinic was overbooked. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

9:55 am: Health authorities were forced to throw out 170 syringes with drawn Pfizer doses on Monday (13 September) after the AIS mass vaccination clinic was overbooked and people had to be sent home.

Wait times hit two hours at around lunchtime and more staff were called to the clinic to clear the queue.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said even with the extra staff, the team realised they would not meet the demand and people who had appointments from 6:30 pm were told not to come in.

But people were then called back when staff realised they had overdrawn 400 doses.

No official wastage was recorded for the day as health staff were able to extract seven doses from a Pfizer vial, which usually yields between five and six doses, counteracting the jabs that were thrown out.

READ MORE College back for Term 4, but Berry, Barr remain tight-lipped on broader return to school

Ms Stephen-Smith said the error occurred because the system took bookings based on the increased vaccine supply expected next week.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Ms Stephen-Smith and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman will update the ACT’s COVID-19 situation at 11:45 am after unveiling the Territory’s roadmap yesterday.

More to come.

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I am sick of hearing these pollies asking people to get vaccinated but do nothing to help. I have approached two Senators for ACT, two medical doctors, a Commonwealth Clinic; and none of them could assist me in getting the Pfyser vaccine because I am over 60. They can only offer AstraZeneca, which we all know kills people through blood clots, especially those over 60 with existing medical conditions. Can you show me one person over 60 who does not have an existing medical conditionn?

Barr only cares about his own political profile, not his citizens. Three states have opened up eligibility to Pfizer for over 60s – that’s leadership. Look at Sam’s post below. He was able to get a Pfizer booster during the booking stuff-up at the AIS, yet many people are still to receive their first. It’s a disgraceful way to run a vaccination program.

Yeah, almost none of what you just said is true.

The Astra Zeneca vaccine is extremely safe and equally as effective as Pfizer.

Your risk of Covid or many other diseases is significantly higher than than a serious negative reaction from the vaccine.

I am over 60 and I didn’t hesitate to get AZ (AstraZeneca), as it’s safe, especially for older people, and risking staying unvaccinated puts you at greater risk than being vaccinated. Many people over 60 have no existing health problems or only minor health problems. If you have existing health problems that puts you at higher risk and you should already have had your AZ vaccine. You are taking a big risk not big vaccinated.

The risk of getting blood clots if you catch Covid is, according to this link, 39 per million. That is compared to AZ at 5 per million and Pfizer & Moderna at 4 per million, so little difference between the vaccines. There’s a comparison graph in this link.

The following article says, “Recent data from the Netherlands and France suggest that of the patients with coronavirus who are admitted to intensive care units (ICU), 30-70% develop blood clots in the deep veins of the legs, or in the lungs.”


That’s MUCH higher than any risk from being vaccinated. That’s 300,000 – 700,000 with blood clots in ICU against 5 with blood clots who had the AstraZenec vaccine. NO comparison.

Go get vaccinated. Don’t continue to put yourself at risk by remaining unvaccinated.

HiddenDragon7:53 pm 15 Sep 21

The latest extension to the ACT lockdown, and the likelihood that it won’t be the last, is dreadful in so many ways for so many people, but comparisons with NSW need to be based on reality, not on the spin emanating from the NSW government media machine.

We’ve already had the spectacle of the Deputy Premier talking about freedoms for the non-vaccinated when the overall rate reaches 80% and then the Premier contradicting him later on the same day. Media coverage today, including from outlets friendly to the NSW government, makes plain the fact that a lot of practical details of the “roadmap” have yet to be worked out – particularly when it comes to enforcement of vaccination “passports” (reliant, as they will be, on a database which Sam Oaks informs us is sufficiently colander-like already to allow booster shots) by businesses.

By comparison, the approach being contemplated here, which Andrew Barr reaffirmed today, of not policing vaccination status but simply opening up for all when vaccination rates are high enough might look (depending on your perspective) arbitrary, unrealistic or even overly idealistic – but it may turn out to be the more workable option in the longer term, perhaps with some compromise on the timing.

Basing the easing of ACT restrictions on a national vaccination rate of 70% is pointless and false security because those who come in from other states could still be in the 30% un-vaccinated cohort. What the Chief Nanny is doing is holding the people of the ACT hostage to decisions made by people in the states to, or not to, vaccinate. All sections of the community should be consulted on the impact of these medical edicts and the sooner we open up completely and restore our lost liberties the sooner normality if not sanity will prevail. End the medical dictatorship.

You do have to laugh at Barr twisting himself in a pretzel to attempt to justify his risk averse nature and wish for the ACT to remain in lockdown for longer.

He claims unvaccinated people from other areas of Australia may come into the ACT and it’s uncontrollable if he begins opening up before the national average hits the triggers, despite our vaccination rates being significantly higher.

Where exactly does he think these people are going to be coming from and how many will there be?

If they are coming by plane, he has full control of them.

Other than that, exactly how many unvaccinated people does he expect to be driving here through NSW from WA, QLD and SA which are the states dragging the national average down? And why is it impossible to conduct compliance checks on major roads like he claimed Sydney should have been doing over the last few months?

It’s good that COVID is the only bad thing that could ever happen to someone and the only thing the government needs to care about….

dingus_maximus1:45 pm 15 Sep 21

When a population is forced to live under draconian restraints applied by a non accountable government official, that is not democracy that is tyranny. I do not understand how this could be extended\doubled with no definitive path out or direction from our so called leaders, no wonder the rest of the world is laughing at us! We were the lucky country, not anymore. We are a society that is increasingly having our rights and freedoms eroded by intellectual lightweights, that use scaremongering and doomsday language as the norm. Time for change. Fully vaxxed and still locked away!

ACT should allow children to go back to school based on ACT Vaccination thresholds not National Vaccination thresholds and have a clear detailed plan for doing so before start of Term 4.

The following are statements from today’s ACT government press conference 15th September 2021. The Deputy Chief Health Officer stated that children’s return to school will likely align with NATIONAL vaccination thresholds. This aligns with Chief Ministers Barr’s (recently changed) narrative of now easing restrictions when ALL states achieve vaccination thresholds and not when the ACT achieve vaccination thresholds.

Why is the ACT not able to distinguish between opening up the state vs. opening up the nation. These are and should be two separate considerations and stages.

It is projected the ACT will achieve double dose 80% threshold by the 8th October, whereas the National projections is the 28th Oct. This is a 3 week difference and the reasoning behind the home schooling mandate until the end of week 4 (i.e. the end of week 4 is the 28th October)

Why exactly are children in the ACT waiting for the vaccination rate of adults in the three most lagging states (Western Australia, South Australia and QLD) to meet a criteria when

– ACT children have a higher vaccination rate in their own state and
– a border to protect them from people travelling from these states?

Sign this petition and have your say if you believe

• Schools re-opening should be based on ACT vaccination thresholds achieved and NOT National vaccination thresholds achieved,

• A clear detailed plan be presented to the people of the ACT for re-opening when vaccination target rates are met, by the ACT.
– And, this plan should be presented before Term 4 begins.

Here is the petition link – https://chng.it/s2vmhNvQry

States like WA and QLD won’t reach 70% until next year. Does that mean we will still need lockdown into 2022?

Yes, that is what they are saying, we are also waiting for National Vaccination rates

My son was one of those to get a late call up and fortunately I was able to get a booster shot as well. Stoked I’ve received 3 doses of Pfizer now. But how are they getting 7 doses out of a vial designed to only have enough for 5-6 doses? Sounds like very inconsistent dosage standards. Think some are getting way more or way less than the advised 30mL.

Well good timing Sam that enabled you to snag a 3rd bug shot.
However I didn’t know that 3 shots were 3 necessary ?

I had a Astra shot, and will get my 2nd next week. Is it only Pfizer where you require a third ?

I’ve wondered that about AZ too. That one is not is short supply, so should have enough of that for boosters. I wonder if that’s being considered, and when.

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