UPDATED 3:00 pm: Construction sites, bus routes and retailers have been named in this afternoon’s COVID-19 exposure sites list.
New casual contact sites have been named in Canberra’s north in the suburbs of Braddon, Gungahlin and Majura Park.
ANU and CIT are both cited in the new listings.
In Braddon, Beyond Pharmacy is a casual contact site on Wednesday, 1 September between 4:30 and 5:30 pm, as is 80/20 Food on Tuesday, 31 August between 10:40 am and 11:30 am.
The Gungahlin Reject Shop is a casual contact venue for both Thursday, 2 September between 8:30 am and 3:30 pm and Friday, 3 September between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm.
Chemist Warehouse Majura Park is listed as a casual-contact exposure site for Monday, 30 August between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm as is Woolworths Majura Park on the same evening from 6:25 pm to 7:30 pm.
The construction site at the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering is also a casual contact site for anyone who was there between 7:00 am and 4:00 pm on Friday, 3 September.
If you have been to any of the casual contact exposure locations at the dates and time listed, you are a casual contact.
- complete the ACT Contact Declaration Form
- immediately quarantine
- get tested for COVID-19 as advised by ACT Health.
Several bus routes have also been listed in Canberra’s north. A large number of venues in Gungahlin, Lyneham, Mawson, Belconnen and Swinger Hill have also been added under the ‘monitor for symptoms’ category.
Visit covid19.act.gov.au for more information.
2:15 pm: Today’s COVID-19 media conference was dominated by questions about the Prime Minister’s Sydney trip, yet Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Chief Health Officer and Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith were unwilling to be drawn into the conversation.
Reports emerged yesterday that the Prime Minister flew out of Canberra on Saturday morning, spent the weekend at Kirribilli with his family, and then returned to Canberra to address the national summit on women’s safety and for a national security committee meeting.
An exemption had been provided by ACT Health to allow the Prime Minister to return to Canberra to fulfil these engagements.
Mr Barr explained that a set of processes was in place for federal parliamentarians, which included their movements being limited to their place of residence and work – presumably being Federal Parliament and the Lodge for Mr Morrison – as well as repeated COVID-19 testing.
Mr Barr said both of these locations are among the most remote in relation to the rest of Canberra as nobody could enter either due to strict security protocols.
He said that this was not the first time an exemption had been granted to a Federal Parliamentarian and while he said he understood community frustration at what people may perceive to be unfair, he said he “was not the Prime Minister’s keeper and did not offer political advice to him”.
He did, however, concede that it was a “not a great look”.
Mr Barr repeatedly noted that questions around the trip would be better directed to the Prime Minister’s Office as his responsibilities were to Canberrans currently enduring lockdown and a COVID-19 outbreak.
He reminded people that ACT Health has no power to stop people from leaving the ACT nor from applying for an exemption as an essential worker.
“The Prime Minister’s position is unique in the nation, that is understood, and Canberra faces a challenging set of circumstances as the seat of government in terms of continuing the operation of our nation’s democracy,” Mr Barr explained.
The Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman said she would not comment on individual circumstances but that the usual processes had been in place.
When asked whether she too believed it was a bad look for the Prime Minister, Dr Coleman said it was not her job as Chief Health Officer to have an opinion on the matter.
She also said that it was not up to her to judge the essentiality of work in industries that had already been deemed essential – such as federal politics.
“In many ways, it is a trust relationship, as is much of society,” she said.
Speaking this morning on ABC Radio, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith had the same stance as Dr Coleman, saying that she too was unable to comment on individual matters, but that there is a process in place for Federal MPs who are considered to be essential workers.
Ms Stephen-Smith would also not confirm whether or not the Prime Minister will complete home quarantine.
Normal circumstances would dictate that anyone travelling from NSW outside of the approved border zones to the ACT would be required to quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival.
Federal Labor MP Bill Shorten accused the Prime Minister of “appalling judgement”, saying he should be treated like every other member of the public.
On Friday, the Prime Minister posted a photo of himself and his family to his official Facebook page. He specified that it had been taken earlier in the year, raising questions over whether or not he intended to be transparent about the trip.
Talking to Sky News today, Mr Morrison said he had not been given any special treatment, nor was an exemption required from NSW Health authorities to return to his home in Sydney.
He also noted that he would be “heading back home this weekend as well and later in this week when I’m no longer required to be here in the ACT”.
12:30 pm: There are 19 new COVID-19 cases overnight, 13 of which are linked to current exposure sites or cases. Eleven were in full quarantine, six spent part of their infectious period in the community and two are under investigation.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has faced a barrage of questions from a larger than usual media contingent at today’s briefing as he discussed the Prime Minister’s decision to visit Sydney for the Father’s Day weekend.
“I would prefer this press conference not to be dominated by questions about the Prime Minister,” Mr Barr said. “But situations like this, I understand, cause concern; it’s not a good look.”
He asked journalists to direct their questions to the Prime Minister, noting this was not a good use of his time as the ACT Government endeavours to protect and support the local community.
“I am not the Prime Minister’s adviser or his keeper … he is ultimately accountable to the Australian community for this decision but we need to ensure that our democracy continues to function. This is the national capital and the seat of government,” he said.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said she would not comment on individual cases and that the Prime Minister’s application was considered and granted in line with exemption conditions.
Health authorities say they’re pleased to note that testing numbers increased significantly to almost 3500 yesterday. The exposure sites are listed twice each day on the COVID-19 website, which has received more than 20 million hits.
The ACT also set a vaccination record yesterday, administering more than 3000 doses in government clinics. In total, 71.4 per cent of the 16-plus population have received their first dose, or around 246,000 Canberrans; 47.6 per cent, or 164,000 Canberrans 16-plus have received their second dose.
However, Mr Barr pointed out that 85,000 people are still not vaccinated at all and 267,000 are not fully vaccinated, meaning we are several months away from reaching an 80 per cent vaccination rate.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the total outbreak now stands at 404 cases of which 174 have now recovered including 11 more overnight. There are 230 active cases in total.
From today’s 13 linked cases, 11 are household contacts and 11 were in quarantine during their whole period.
Eight people are in hospital, six of whom are unvaccinated.
Over the course of this outbreak, 23 people have been hospitalised. Of these, three people have required intensive care and two have been ventilated. Most infections are in the young adult population.
There are 14 public sites of transmission and one new case has been added to the Mirchi Indian restaurant cluster, two new and two previously confirmed cases are now associated with the Busy Bees early learning centre, and there are two new cases linked to the Woden Priceline pharmacy.
Some changes to testing will take place from tomorrow. The Brindabella and Weston Creek centres will close for testing after today but will be available in future if necessary for surge testing capacity. The Garran surge centre will return to use as a testing clinic and the AIS will focus on vaccination.
Acting clinical director of obstetrics at Canberra Hospital Dr Natalie De Cure also spoke about the importance of pregnant women receiving vaccination.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Australian College of Midwives are both strong advocates for vaccination at any stage of pregnancy, relying on global data from the US and UK showing that there were no adverse outcomes at any stage of pregnancy from the Pfizer vaccine.
Like other vaccines given to pregnant women including flu and whooping cough, Dr De Cure said Pfizer is not a live vaccine and there is no risk of infection to the baby. The vaccine triggers a mother’s immune response to make natural antibodies to prevent or mitigate the illness and degrades very quickly in the maternal system. It does not cross the placenta but the mother’s antibodies do offer protection to the baby.
Dr De Cure said there is also no increased miscarriage risk and that women at all stages of pregnancy should seek at least one dose of vaccine. Women with complex health backgrounds are strongly encourage to discuss vaccination with their care teams.
UPDATED 11:55 am: The ACT has recorded 19 new COVID-19 cases to 8:00 pm last night.
Yesterday the ACT recorded 11 cases.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said 13 cases are linked to current or close contacts; six are under investigation.
Eleven have been in quarantine for the entirety of their infectious period; six spent part of thier infectious period in the community and two are under investigation.
The number of people in hospital has dropped to eight (down from 11) and one remains in intensive care requiring ventilation.
Testing rose to almost 3500 in the past 24 hours – up from less than 2500 yesterday – and the ACT Government is pleased people are coming forward for testing in greater numbers.
Vaccination also hit a record at ACT Government clinics yesterday with more than 3500 doses administered.
At her COVID briefing, Premier Gladys Berejiklian reported that NSW had recorded 1220 new cases and eight more people have died from the virus.
Of the deaths, six were unvaccinated people: one man in his 50s, two women and a man in their 70s, a man in his 80s and a man in his 90s. One man in his 60s had received one dose and a fully vaccinated man in his 90s also died.
In Victoria, Premier Dan Andrews announced 246 new cases.
Woolworths Gungahlin, Kaleen Plaza Pharmacy and Block Ra of the CIT Bruce Student Accommodation were the only three casual contact sites added to the ACT Government’s exposure location list last night.
There were no new close contact exposure sites.
Anyone who visited Woolworths Gungahlin between 12:50 pm and 2:00 pm on Sunday, 5 September, the pharmacy at Kaleen on Wednesday, 1 September between 6:15 pm and 7:10 pm and the student accommodation at CIT on Monday, 30 August between 8:50 pm and 11:30 pm must get tested, immediately quarantine and complete the ACT Contact Declaration Form.
The number of tests required is dependent on how many days ago the location was visited. Less than four days ago means two tests, whereas more than four days ago means only one.
A number of locations are also listed in the ‘monitor for symptoms’ category.
Among them is United Petrol Amaroo on Sunday, 5 September between 12:20 pm and 1:00 pm, Hawker Discount Drug Store on Friday, 27 August between 11:40 am and 12:20 pm, Jamison Plaza News on Friday, 3 September between 2:00 pm and 2:50 pm and Coles Express Gungahlin on the same day between 2:50 pm and 3:30 pm.
Anyone who visited Braddon Flowers on Tuesday, 31 August between 10:40 am and 11:15 am, Nandos Canberra Centre on Friday, 3 September between 2:50 pm and 3:30 pm should also monitor for symptoms.
Only nine exposure sites were added overnight. This comes after a weekend in which the list ballooned with more than 100 new sites added.
However, authorities remain concerned about the number of cases in the surrounding region of NSW as new introductions of the virus to the Territory remain under investigation.
Speaking this morning on breakfast radio, Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said NSW continues to pose a risk to the ACT because the case numbers are so high.
However, she didn’t rule out easing some restrictions on Friday, 17 September when the current lockdown is due to come to an end.
Yesterday, NSW health authorities confirmed two new cases in Goulburn, one case in Googong, one case in Karabar and one new case in Queanbeyan.
Further afield, there was also a new case in Batemans Bay and one in Cooma. Harden is also of concern after an essential worker visited the town and later tested positive for COVID-19.
A number of venues of concern in Goulburn and Yass have been listed.
Canberrans who have had one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine are now able to decrease the interval between jabs to between four and eight weeks. It was previously recommended to wait for 12 weeks between doses.
Ms Stephen-Smith said that while she wasn’t aware of the number of Canberrans who had opted to move their second appointments forward, she knew the news had been welcomed by the community.
The ACT Government has previously said it’s hoped the change will allay the concerns of people who were put off from getting AstraZeneca because they believed it would be quicker to wait for Pfizer to become available.