UPDATED 2:30 pm: In response to today’s announcement that the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard will stop fronting the media daily for a COVID update, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he will continue to hold the ACT briefings but may have a day off soon.
Speaking at what is believed to be his 30th consecutive press conference, Mr Barr said daily updates will continue for the foreseeable future, but it is likely the weekend briefings could be reduced and he may not be at all of them.
“It is possible that we may not do seven days a week, so while we will have weekday ones, we may cut down on the weekend ones later in the month and into next month,” he explained.
However, above all, Mr Barr reiterated that it is dependent on the situation and circumstances at the time, and noted this is not likely to change until later in the month.
“We will continue to be available and clearly big announcements and more information will be available on some days than on others.
“I would observe that there are some repetitive elements to the press conferences,” he added.
He did say some people have been advising him that it might soon be time to have a day off.
“Obviously, I can’t do this entirely as I still need to be chairing meetings that occur every day. But whether I’m at this podium for the rest of time, I think I can confidently say no.”
Mr Barr also noted he’d hope Christmas Day might be a day off for both journalists and himself.
The updated exposure site list includes the IBIS Budget Hotel in Watson which was named a casual contact exposure site from 6:00 pm on Friday, 27 August until Tuesday, 7 September from 12:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Other casual contact locations include Woolworths Kambah, the ABS Census Campus, Coles Curtin, 7-Eleven Holt, Woolworths Gungahlin and a number of bus routes.
A number of locations in Gungahlin and Belconnen are listed under the monitor for symptoms category.
Check the full list for all locations and precise times and dates.
UPDATED 12:30 pm: There are 24 new cases of COVID-19 in Canberra overnight and while it’s a high headline number, health authorities say there’s some good news in that 15 were in quarantine for their entire infectious period.
However, there are now 15 people in hospital, the youngest a child under 12 and the oldest a person in their mid-70s.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said at today’s COVID briefing that four people require intensive care, including one person who is on ventilation.
The outbreak totals 463 and Dr Coleman said the Australian Immunisation Register’s information shows that 361 of those cases, or 78 per cent, were wholly unvaccinated.
“All of this together supports the importance of getting vaccinated as soon as you possibly can to protect yourself from serious illness and those unable to get vaccinated, particularly noting children under 12 years of age,” Dr Coleman said.
A total of 414 cases, or 90 per cent of the total, are now linked, but contact tracers are still working to connect 40 cases, including seven from the last 24 hours. There are no additional active public sites of transmission, although household contact cases continue to surface at Bidfood Canberra among other sites.
And as residential construction sites return to work, there was a stern warning from Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan that ACT Police and WorkSafe will not hesitate to act on compliance issues.
“I want to make it very clear that power exists under current legislation to shut down a site for serious non-compliance where there is a threat to public health. We don’t want to shut down building sites … but I want to make it clear we won’t hesitate to do so to make sure public health is maintained,” CPO Gaughan said.
There are fines of up to $200 for those who are not masked, $1000 for anyone failing to comply with public health directions and $5000 for businesses failing to comply with health directions. Those requirements extend to all businesses.
The Chief Police Officer said there would continue to be a strong focus on mask-wearing and “anywhere, anytime” border checks. He warned Canberrans cannot travel outside the Territory borders as neighbouring LGAs come out of lockdown as NSW Police patrol the Barton Highway.
“My message to Canberrans is, you can’t go to Yass. We’ve got to stick to the rules,” he said.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that over half of the ACT’s 16-plus population had now received both doses of vaccine, making the ACT the first jurisdiction to reach this important milestone. Over this weekend, the ACT is on track to reach 75 per cent first dose vaccination for 16-plus and 70 per cent for Canberrans aged 12 years and over.
Mr Barr reiterated that it takes two weeks for vaccines to be fully effective.
“When we talk milestones and figures, it is two weeks after we cross the headline threshold. Vaccines are not fully effective until two weeks later,” Mr Barr said.
More than 30,000 additional appointments have been announced at ACT Government clinics and Mr Barr urged anyone who has later bookings to check whether they can book in earlier. The booking system allows 100 people on site, but users will be placed in a relatively fast-moving virtual queue. This is anticipated to speed up the vaccination program by around two weeks.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said that 3100 requests had been received for the new Check In CBR card, which will be issued from Monday. Updates for the app are now available for android smartphones as well.
She also announced a significant increase in testing assessment pathology capacity in the ACT.
Testing in the ACT peaked at more than 5000 tests per day, and two new testing machines are being installed to boost capacity to 10,000 per day if required via a PCR testing device and robotic handling system at the ACT Pathology molecular lab at The Canberra Hospital.
Ms Stephen-Smith said this capacity would provide more rapid intelligence on COVID-19, help contact tracers to trace the movement of the virus, and reduce waiting time for test results.
As around 100 Canberra Hospital and less than 20 Calvary Public staff remain in quarantine, Ms Stephen-Smith thanked the large number of health staff who had come forward offering to return to active duty. There have been 1300 applications and 370 staff have been brought on board.
Recruitment for an additional 50 nursing staff has been finalised this week and a further 250 will be brought on to meet demand, enabling the vaccination program to surge and additional capacity at testing centres.
UPDATED 11:55 am: The ACT has reported 24 new COVID-19 cases to 8:00 pm last night.
Yesterday the ACT reported 15 new cases.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said of the 24 new cases, 18 are linked to current exposure sites or identified close contacts. Six are under investigation.
Fifteen of the 24 cases were in quarantine for the entirety of their infectious period. At least six were in the community for part of their infectious period. Three are under investigation.
Fifteen are in hospital with COVID, four are in intensive care and one requires ventilation.
The youngest patient in hospital is under 12 years of age.
Almost 3400 tests were conducted yesterday.
A total of 625 traffic stops were conducted and there were four directions to leave the Territory.
Just over half the ACT population aged 16 or over has had two doses of vaccine. The ACT is the first Australian jurisdiction to reach this two-dose milestone.
Over the weekend, Chief Minister Andrew Barr says 75 per cent of the 16-plus population will have received their first dose of vaccine.
Of the 12-plus population, 70 per cent of Canberrans have received at least one dose.
At her COVID briefing, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian reported 1542 new cases and nine deaths.
“As the modelling we released indicated, we are expecting the peak number of cases to happen in the next week or so. So far this trajectory is what has been predicted,” Ms Berejiklian said.
Victoria has recorded 334 new cases and one coronavirus death.
9:40 am: Supermarkets, petrol stations, mechanics, pawnshops, food businesses, post offices, bus routes and other retail are among the new casual contact locations overnight.
The ACT Government’s list of COVID-19 exposure sites was updated at around 7:00 pm last night, with exposure locations ranging from Wednesday, 1 September to Sunday, 5 September.
On Wednesday, 1 September, bus Route 9 from Belconnen to Lyneham from 8:57 pm to 9:10 pm is now listed as a casual contact site.
Other casual exposure locations on 1 September include ALDI Macquarie from 6:50 pm to 8:00 pm, ALDI Amaroo from 10:45 am to 11:50 am, and Cash Converters Belconnen from 1:20 pm to 2:40 pm.
Sites for Thursday, 2 September include bus Route 9 from Belconnen to Bruce from 2:29 pm to 2:39 pm, the Reject Shop Belconnen from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm, Coles Jamison from 4:15 pm to 5:15 pm, Australia Post Jamison from 3:50 to 4:40 pm, Transtate Tyres and Suspension Services from 2:10 to 3:15 pm, KFC Hawker from 1:10 pm to 2:00 pm and ALDI Macquarie from 12:25 pm to 1:15 pm.
On Friday, 3 September, Urban Cellars Kippax from 1:15 pm to 2:00 pm has been named a casual contact site, as is Woolworths Metro Hawker from 1:10 to 2:00 pm.
Exposure locations for Saturday, 4 September are Woolworths Gungahlin from 3:45 pm to 4:35 pm, Cash Converters Woden from 11:45 am to 12:45 pm, while those on Sunday, 5 September are Coles Curtin from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm and 7-Eleven Holt from 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm.
No new close contact exposure sites were added.
More than 30 new ‘monitor for symptoms’ locations have also been added to the exposure sites list, including an adult store in Mitchell.
Repeated among them is the Optimal Pharmacy Plus in Jamison, as well as several other locations in Jamison. Many other supermarkets in Canberra’s north are also listed, as are food locations, the Mitchell Resource Management Centre and a restaurant in Canberra’s south.
The updated Check-in CBR app will now include a new exposure location alert so that users whose check-in history matches a new site will be directly notified through the app.
It will also identify whether these sites are close or casual contacts so people can take the appropriate action.
However, Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said that this change will not be retrospective, meaning it will only affect newly named locations.
To support business through the COVID-19 lockdown, thousands of applications for business support grants are being processed by a large ACT Government team.
Speaking this morning on breakfast radio, Minister for Business and Better Regulation Tara Cheyne said more than 6000 businesses have now submitted applications for the business support grant, and 38 per cent of these have been fully accessed.
“In about 75 per cent of cases, we have had to go back to businesses for some more information which is slowing us down a little bit,” she told ABC Radio.
She advised business owners who had already submitted a grant to go back and double-check their paperwork and proactively reach out to the business team on firstname.lastname@example.org to provide more information.
Ms Cheyne said the website is being updated with more information and explanations.
She said the team is being generous regarding what information is required to demonstrate a 30 per cent downturn.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has previously warned that anyone trying to rort the scheme will be caught.
The main reason given by both Ms Cheyne and Mr Barr for applications being rejected was incomplete or inactive business numbers (ABNs).
“We’re also doing ASIC searches and sometimes we have seen that a company has been in liquidation or external administration,” Ms Cheyne explained.
Ms Cheyne this morning reiterated that while she understands the frustration in the business community regarding a need to have more people on site to run a business such as a nursery, any easing of restrictions will be gradual.
Businesses can apply for the grant through the online ACT Government’s Business hub.
More information on other supports available for businesses can be found at covid19.act.gov.au.