One of the city’s major public housing blocks has been locked down after a visitor with COVID-19 stayed overnight for five days last week.
The roughly 70 residents of Condamine Court in Turner are now listed as close contacts and confined to a 14-day quarantine.
They are being supported by a multi-agency task force led by ACT Health that was set up over the weekend from late on Saturday night.
The exposure happened from Sunday, 15 August through to Thursday, 19 August. None of the residents have tested positive for the virus so far, with teams of nurses testing 55 of them over the weekend.
Some residents were not at home, and others have health requirements, but no one refused to be tested.
Some have been vaccinated but ACT Health is still to determine the full picture and is looking to vaccinate those who haven’t had a jab.
A self-contained staging point has been established at Turner Primary School, separate from the rest of the school, for the teams involved in meeting the residents’ food, cleaning and laundry, medical supplies, PPE and mental health support needs.
It is not known if the visitor, whose movements were picked up in contact tracing, is a tenant at another public housing property.
ACT Health believes there may be other exposure sites stemming from the visitor diagnosed with COVID-19 after being at Condamine Court while infectious.
If a positive case emerges from Condamine Court, they will be assessed on site and managed there or moved to another facility to isolate.
Condamine Court residents were concerned and anxious when they were told the news but grateful for the government support, the result of long-term plans for managing such a situation in the ACT’s multi-unit public housing complexes.
Teams doorknocked the complex over the weekend and again today to ask about their needs.
Housing and Education Minister Yvette Berry said this was a people-first approach, adding that the government had learned from what happened in Victoria last year when a public housing tower was locked down immediately without regard to the people living there.
“We first of all went to support the people before Health made an assessment on what Condamine would be identified as, as far as a response to COVID,” she said.
This involved providing as much information as possible about the situation and what will happen over the coming days while they are in quarantine.
A 24/7 hotline has been set up for residents, and they will also receive printed and text messages to keep them informed. Interpreters will be provided for some residents.
Homelessness and Housing Services Minister Rebecca Vassarotti said communication was crucial in such an environment where some residents have complex medical needs, including mental illness.
“It’s a scary time for anyone but particularly for people who might be dealing with complexity and have some vulnerability,” she said.
ACT Health expects that many people have been in and out of the building over the period in question, and case investigation teams would be working with residents to track them down.
The task force includes staff from ACT Health, Community Services, Education and police, supported by non-government organisations.
Earlier this year, Condamine Court residents had complained about a lack of maintenance and poor security at the complex.
Ms Vassarotti said that a lot of work had been done over the past few months to address these issues and said some design improvements were also being looked at to make the building safer.