14 December 2021

UPDATED: Health authorities not worried about logistics of new Mitchell COVID-testing site; ACT records four cases

| Lottie Twyford
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Google maps image of Mitchell

The new testing centre will open at 2 Tooth Street in Mitchell on Saturday. Image: Screenshot.

UPDATED 1:30 pm: Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith isn’t worried about any potential logistical challenges that could be posed by the location of the new COVID-19 testing clinic which will replace EPIC when that facility shuts on Friday (17 December).

From Saturday, 18 December, a drive-thru testing clinic will open at 2 Tooth Street in Mitchell. It will join the existing network of testing clinics at Garran, Kambah and Nicholls – although the latter will be closed over the Christmas stand-down period. Kambah will also operate for limited hours on public holidays.

The new clinic will be accessed from Dacre Street.

Despite EPIC having experienced long waits for testing in recent weeks, Ms Stephen-Smith isn’t overly concerned about the potential for long queues of cars blocking the street. She said that despite moving from EPIC to a smaller facility, ACT Health will continue to maintain the capacity to surge up testing if needed.

“People are encouraged to have a look at the website and social media if it’s looking busy, and they can always go to another site if there’s a minimal wait time there,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

She said resources, including staffing, would be allocated to the new centre as and when demand indicated it was necessary. This is the arrangement already in place for the other testing clinics, Ms Stephen-Smith said.

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Regarding concerns about traffic management, the Minister said work was already underway with Mitchell traders and local businesses about how best that could be managed. She noted there were times when traffic at the Kambah facility had to be managed due to spikes in demand.

“If we do start to see an impact on [local businesses], we will manage that,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

She noted Canberrans would continue to be reminded that if they were getting tested after being identified as a contact or because they had any symptoms, they should not visit any venues.

However, people getting a precautionary test for travel are not required to quarantine or isolate.

Ms Stephen-Smith thanked the team of staff who have worked at EPIC since it opened as a COVID-19 testing clinic back in March 2020.

“EPIC has done a fantastic job,” Ms Stephen-Smith said, “but it’s time for us to get back to a more normal summer.”

EPIC testing centre

The testing site at EPIC will be shut from this Friday. Photo: Madeleine Mackenzie.

UPDATED 11:15 am: The ACT has recorded four new cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8 pm last night.

This takes the total actives cases in the Territory to 60. To 9 am this morning, 1634 negative test results were recorded.

Of the Territory’s 12-plus population, 98.3 per cent are now fully vaccinated.

There are a total of four active and cleared cases in ACT hospitals as of 8 pm yesterday, including one in intensive care. No one is on a ventilator in the ACT.

Yesterday, the ACT recorded three cases of COVID-19.

For the second day in a row, the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website has not been updated with new exposure locations.

However, official documents from the Office of the Chief Health Officer published online yesterday show several new exposure locations.

The Murrays Coach from Sydney to Canberra on Monday, 6 December, is a close contact location from 5 pm to 8:30 pm.

Other venues in Canberra have been listed as close contact exposures.

On Saturday, 4 December, the Embassy of Italy is listed between 9:30 am and 10:45 am, and the AIS basketball court two is listed between 8 am and 9 am. Both contain a mix of casual and close contacts.

On Monday, 6 December, Specialist Sports Medicine Centre in Garran is a close contact exposure location between 5:05 pm and 5:45 pm. Building 14 – Gymnasium only is also listed between 2:50 pm and 3:45 pm. Some individuals may be classed as casual contacts.

Merici College Handball Match on Tuesday, 7 December, is also listed between 7:30 pm and 8:30 pm. Some individuals may be classed as casual contacts.

6th Position in the Sydney Building is a close contact site from 7:15 pm to 9:15 pm on Wednesday, 8 December.

One new casual contact location is listed – Paul Whyte Automotive in Gungahlin from 10 am to 2:15 pm on Wednesday, 7 December.

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Elsewhere, NSW has recorded a jump in new COVID-19 cases. There are 804 new cases and one death. Yesterday there were only 536 reported cases.

The state’s total of Omicron cases still sits at 85.

There are 168 people in hospitals across the state with the virus and 21 in ICU.

NSW Health said 94.8 per cent of the 16-plus population has received their first dose, and 93.2 per cent has had two doses.

From tomorrow, density limits will no longer apply across the state, mask-wearing and QR check-ins will be dropped in most settings and proof of vaccination won’t be required in the majority of premises.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard used this morning’s briefing to express his concerns that people are not understanding the importance of a booster shot.

In Victoria, there are 1189 new cases and six deaths.

There are 364 Victorians hospitalised with COVID-19. As of Friday, 92 per cent of the state’s eligible population (12 and over) is fully vaccinated.

Across the entire state, there are 11,051 active cases of the virus.

Yesterday, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan announced the state will remain closed for the holiday season but will reopen its borders on Saturday, 5 February, next year.

Overseas, the world’s first publicly confirmed Omicron death was recorded this morning in the UK.

Holy Family ELC

The Holy Family ELC in Gowrie will not reopen for the rest of the year. Photo: Screenshot.

9:35 am: Despite not being listed on the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website, the Holy Family Early Learning Centre in Gowrie has been identified as an exposure site for Friday, 3 December.

It’s understood the facility will now remain closed for the rest of the school year.

According to ACT Health, 60 close contacts have been identified and must quarantine for 14 days.

The person who attended campus was infected with the Delta strain of the virus.

But the Holy Family Primary School – which is on the same campus – was unaffected by the COVID-19 exposure. ACT Health said they only list primary school exposures on their website.

Parents were notified of the exposure on Tuesday, 7 December, and children had to quarantine for 14 days from Friday, 3 December.

This means they won’t be required to quarantine for Christmas.

Household secondary contacts, such as parents or siblings, were not required to quarantine if they tested negative to COVID-19.

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The COVID-19 testing centre at EPIC will close at 10 pm on Friday (17 December) to allow for its normal operations and events to resume.

Since EPIC began operating in March 2020, almost 250,000 tests have been performed.

A new COVID-19 testing site in Mitchell will open at 2 Tooth Street from Saturday, 18 December. The smaller site will mirror the arrangements currently in place for the EPIC clinic and will open from 8 am to 10 pm.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said it would be part of a network of existing centres.

“We will ensure there is ample capacity across our testing clinics over the holiday period so that anyone who needs to get tested can do so in a timely manner,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

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She encouraged Canberrans to get tested if they experience even the mildest symptoms or are classified as a close or casual contact over the holidays.

“COVID-19 isn’t taking a holiday.”

Over the Christmas holiday period, the following ACT Government clinics will be operating:

  • Mitchell COVID-19 Drive Through Testing Centre – 8 am to 10 pm, seven days a week (including public holidays)
  • Garran COVID-19 Testing Centre 7 am to 9 pm, seven days a week (including public holidays)
  • Kambah COVID-19 Drive Through Testing Centre – 8 am to 4 pm, seven days a week (8 am to 12 pm on public holidays)

The Nicholls COVID-19 Testing Centre will be closed from 25 December 2021 to 3 January 2022.

More to come.

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