14 September 2021

UPDATED: Recalcitrant businesses face being shut down, hotel among new exposure sites

| Ian Bushnell
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Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr: businesses will be shut down if they don’t follow public health directions. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

UPDATED 2:10 pm: Chief Minister Andrew Barr has told repeat offender businesses that the time for warnings is over and they face being shut down if they continue flouting the public health directions, particularly mask-wearing.

Mr Barr said the offending businesses were in the hospitality industry and some click and collect operations.

He said most businesses were doing the right thing but a small number of repeat offenders meant that a proportionate response from ACT Policing, Access Canberra and WorkSafe teams could be expected.

“It was pretty alarming to hear yesterday that eight of the 10 businesses that the Access Canberra team visited weren’t compliant,” Mr Barr said.

“That’s too high and that’s a problem.”

Mr Barr said the compliance teams had a range of options available to them, including fines and short and longer-term closures.

They would deal with businesses on a case by case basis and depending on the individual circumstances.

Mr Barr said the compliance teams would not need to be beefed up.

“It’s not that we need an extra army of people out there,” he said. “They’re picking up the cases, and most times most businesses only need one warning and they get it.”

Mr Barr said the government had engaged with business and taken an educative approach.

“At various points interstate you had police arresting people for eating kebabs in parks and that sort of thing,” he said.

“We have never had that culture, that heavy-handed police state in this jurisdiction, and I hope we never will.

“What we do insist on, in order to keep everyone safe and to keep all the other businesses open and functioning, is that these public health directions are complied with.”

Mr Barr also confirmed that people aged over 59 will have to wait if they want to receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, with the ACT firmly fixed on vaccinating its younger cohorts, including children aged 12 to 15.

But he warned the few holdouts left that they were risking serious illness by not accessing the AstraZeneca vaccine through their GP or pharmacy.

ACT Health has added a number of new locations to its exposure sites list, including a hotel lobby in Belconnen, a number of stores at the Erindale shops in Wanniassa, and a service station in Fyshwick.

The Abode Hotel lobby has been named a monitor for symptoms site from Thursday, 2 September between 3:50 pm and 4:30 pm.*

The Wanniassa locations include the BWS liquor store, Woolworths Erindale, the NewsXpress newsagency, and BlackJack Kiosk over a number of days last week.

Other close contact sites include the Metro service station and Hungry Jacks in Fyshwick, Coles Express in Hawker, the IGA supermarket in Yarralumla, Woolworths at Southlands in Mawson, and the Capital Chemist in Charnwood, again over a number of days from last week.

Woolworths Metro Franklin on the corner of Flemington Road and Nullarbor Avenue on Saturday, 4 September, between 2:20 pm and 3:30 pm has been listed as a casual exposure site.

Check the website for the full list of close and casual contact exposure sites and times.

*CORRECTION 12:00 pm, 14 September: The Abode Hotel was incorrectly listed as a close contact site in the 13 September report. The Abode Hotel for Thursday, 2 September between 3:50 pm and 4:30 pm is a monitor for symptoms site, not a close contact site as originally reported. Region Media apologises for the error.

Andrew Barr

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

UPDATED 12:30 pm: There are 13 new cases of COVID-19 overnight, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr has expressed frustration that only two of these were in quarantine during their entire infectious period.

“We believe at least 10 have spent part of their time in the community,” Mr Barr told today’s COVID briefing. Testing also slumped over the weekend to just over 2400, a disappointing result for health authorities who say this is now a challenging time in the outbreak.

“What we often find is that the first case who comes forward infects the rest of the household,” the Chief Minister said.

“If they had all come together for testing, we’d have been able to reduce the number of days people are infectious in the community. Once someone in a household is infected, it is highly likely everyone else will be.”

Mr Barr said the daily variation in case numbers was often driven by the size of individual households. The number of people who are infectious in the community would be one of the factors determining the road ahead, beyond the headline number of cases.

“We want a high number of links to cases and as low as possible number infectious in community. If you’re in quarantine you’re not a risk. If you’ve been out and about, you are a risk.

“If we’ve got too many people even unknowingly infectious in the community, you’re on a pathway to where Sydney finds itself now,” he said.

Nine people are now hospitalised, with three people in intensive care and one being ventilated. Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the majority are unvaccinated.

The ACT’s outbreak now totals 506, including 245 active cases.

Of concern, Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Centre and Malkara Specialist School have both been identified as possible exposure sites. A COVID positive case was at the Health Centre on Thursday and Friday.

Dr Coleman said everyone on-site on Thursday has been identified, but tracing is still underway for the second day and anyone present between 8:30 am and 4:3o pm is required to test and isolate. The Health Centre has been closed as staff are required to isolate and for cleaning.

Of the Territory’s Indigenous population, 57.9 per cent have received their first dose of vaccine, and 36.5 per cent have received their second dose. Winnunga Nimmityjah vaccination appointments have been moved to the AIS hub.

Mr Barr also expressed frustration that a small number of businesses were still not compliant with public health directives, including eight out of ten businesses visited by the Access Canberra team yesterday.

He warned that these businesses face significant fines and closure.

“This is a problem where we are now moving beyond warning. Repeat offenders will have to be closed,” he said.

“The purpose of the public health directions is to protect the community and staff working in the business. If we can’t have incredibly high compliance levels this far into the pandemic, we are beyond the point of issuing warnings. The businesses will have to be closed.”

This week, 16,615 people are booked for vaccination at ACT Government clinics, and Mr Barr said thousands more would receive their doses through GPs and pharmacists.

Fifty per cent of the ACT’s population 12 and over is now fully vaccinated and 75 per cent of the cohort have received their first dose.

The government has a strong focus on 12 to 15-year-olds as vaccination appointments begin from next Monday: 650 vulnerable children with underlying health issues have received their first dose and there are a further 25,000 children in this age group in the ACT.

Mr Barr said that testing remains a critical part of the ACT’s response and that will be the case for months to come.

“Please come forward. If you live with someone who has symptoms, the household should come forward. If you are in a workplace, come on board for testing. Everyone should come forward, and everyone must isolate while awaiting results,” he said.

Further announcements about the next stages for the ACT will be made in a major announcement any tomorrow’s briefing.

UPDATED 11:55 am: The ACT has recorded 13 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8:00 pm last night.

Seven were linked and six are under investigation.

Yesterday the ACT recorded 15 cases.

Of the new cases, only two were in quarantine for the entirety of their infectious period. At least 10 were in the community for part of their infectious period.

Nine people are currently in hospital with COVID; three are in intensive case; one requires ventilation.

Yesterday, 2402 tests were completed. Chief Minister Andrew Barr reiterated that at least 3000 tests are required per day.

ACT Policing, WorkSafe and Access Canberra conducted 376 traffic stops and 37 business compliance checks.

Mr Barr said eight out of 10 businesses visited were not complying with the Health Orders. He warned that repeat offenders will be closed.

Earlier today, NSW recorded 1257 new cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths (three people in their 90s, three in their 80s and one in their 60s). Yesterday there were 1262 new cases and seven deaths.

In Victoria, 473 cases were recorded, up from 392 yesterday.

Nurse preparing COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will soon be available for children aged 12 to 15. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

8:55 am: A school for children with disabilities, a child care centre and an Aboriginal health centre are among new exposure sites listed on the ACT COVID-19 website this morning.

The Malkara Specialist School in Garran is listed as a close contact exposure location for two days last week – Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, as is the Nipperville Early Learning Centre in Dickson for Monday and Tuesday last week from 8:45 am to 6:10 pm.

The Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service in Narrabundah is closed today and tomorrow after an unknowingly COVID-infectious person was at the main reception desk in the new building last Friday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.

Winnunga is telling anyone who was at the centre last Friday to get tested and isolate.

Those booked in for a COVID jab tomorrow or Tuesday should go to the AIS Stadium in Bruce or re-book you when the centre reopens on Wednesday.

Other exposure sites include the Mint Road Cafe and the supermarket in Narrabundah, Woolworths supermarkets in Dunlop and Dickson, CG’s Discount Tobacconist in Dickson, the Shell Coles Express in Charnwood, and bus Route 50 from Watson shops to Dickson.

READ ALSO It’s all COVID but where is the rest of government?

Check the COVID website for full locations and exposure times.

The ACT’s vaccination program continues to ramp up, with younger teens to be soon included.

From next Monday, all Canberra children aged 12 to 15 years will be able to book a Pfizer vaccination appointment at an ACT Government clinic or get a Moderna jab at a pharmacy.

Pfizer is already available for 12 to 15-year-olds from participating GPs already, and Moderna is expected to be available from participating pharmacies from 20 September.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said making vaccinations available to the 25,000 or so 12 to 15-year-olds was a critical part of the ACT Government’s response to COVID-19.

“This is a relatively small cohort compared to other groups we have released bookings for previously, but it is a very important group,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“While there is a lower risk of severe disease in children, we have seen through our current outbreak the potential for the Delta variant to spread through school-aged children.

“Getting our children vaccinated protects them, their families and the whole community.”

Ms Stephen-Smith said the ACT Government had always maintained that everybody 12 and over should be included in its vaccination targets.

“Giving 12 to 15-year-olds the ability to book at an ACT Government mass vaccination clinic will help us get more Canberrans vaccinated faster, and it will also help the Territory reach our vaccination targets faster,” she said.

The ACT Government is also reminding Canberrans that a range of vaccination options is available.

“There are only a small number of Pfizer appointments available at ACT Government mass vaccination clinics before November and we are not receiving Moderna,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“People should therefore consider checking with GPs and pharmacies to secure a Pfizer or Moderna vaccination through the Commonwealth’s primary care program.

“While we hope to release new appointments as increasing vaccine supply allows, the fastest path to getting your children vaccinated may be talking to your trusted health professional.

“I encourage parents to get their children vaccinated as quickly as possible. Vaccinating children and young people against COVID-19 is a key part of our response to the pandemic.”

The ACT Government will continue to work with the Commonwealth Government and healthcare providers to ensure it delivers a safe, effective and accessible COVID-19 vaccine program in the ACT.

For more information on who is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and how to book an appointment: www.covid19.act.gov.au/vaccine

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Capital Retro7:28 am 14 Sep 21

What is the recommended procedure for using ATMs which are usually located in the forecourts of shopping centres?

The keypads on these (becoming rare) devices must be the perfect way to transmit COVOD 19 yet there are no precautionary signs or hand cleanser dispensers to be seen.

I have been getting the wipes for supermarket trolleys to use before i attempt to use the ATMs. Using disposable rubber gloves is unsuccessful as the keys will only activate when they sense human skin.

Where are the health “experts” on this?

The ATMs are off limits…
How will one get money out to pay the fines?

No seriously , good point.
There are some things that just don’t make any logical sense, yet something so obvious, used by every man, woman and dog, you think they would be all over it… so to speak.

Using cash. How quaint.

Don’t use cash. Credit/debit cards, or pay online. I hardly ever use cash these days.

Today we read that Singapore with 81% double vaccinations is having a surge of cases and they are now suggesting that 90% is required for the Delta variant.
If 8 out if 10 recently visited business aren’t Covid compliant now, it makes you wonder what will happen when we start relaxing the rules!

Interesting reading today from Singapore.
“We’re finding quite a lot of breakthrough infections among vaccinated people, but these are mostly mild or asymptomatic.”

“Singapore has only 35 seriously ill COVID-19 patients, with seven in ICU, according to its Ministry of Health.”
This from a nation of 5.7 million. We have 430,000 , sort of.

With a bit of perspective today we also read that Singapore has only had 58 COVID deaths in the entire pandemic and has 35 people currently hospitalised with COVID and 7 total in ICU.

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