1 September 2021

UPDATED: Big events at Christmas unlikely but fingers crossed for family and friends

| Dominic Giannini and Genevieve Jacobs
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Andrew Barr thinks major events at Christmas are a long shot, but smaller get-togethers are likely. Photo: Facebook.

UPDATED 3:30 pm: More exposure locations have been listed across Gungahlin and a number of bus and light rail routes.

Anyone who was at Gungahlin Priceline between 12:20 pm and 1:20 pm or the Gungahlin First Choice Liquor between 12:50 pm and 2:00 pm on Monday, 30 August is considered to be a casual contact and must get tested.

The Route 65 bus from the Woden Interchange to Cooleman Court between 1:25 pm and 1:38 pm and the Route 70 bus from Cooleman Court to Woden Interchange between 1:57 pm and 2:07 pm on Monday, 30 August have been listed as casual exposure sites.

The Route 65 bus from the Woden Interchange to Cooleman Court between 8:00 am and 8:10 am and the Route 64 bus from Cooleman Court to Woden Interchange between 8:43 am and 8:53 am on Sunday, 29 August have also been listed as casual exposure sites.

People on the Route 22 bus from Gungahlin Place to Throsby between 2:50 pm and 2:56 pm and the light rail from Gungahlin to Manning Clark North between 5:01 pm and 5:03 pm on Thursday 26 August are considered casual contacts as well.

A full list of exposure locations can be found at www.covid19.act.gov.au.

UPDATED 2:10 pm: Large events before the end of the year have been all but cancelled after Chief Minister Andrew Barr flagged that tapering COVID restrictions mean it is highly unlikely sizeable gatherings will proceed.

“I cannot be certain what the settings in December will be,” Mr Barr said. “We could have a really accelerated pace of vaccination, but I would not be planning a major event this year.”

But Mr Barr remained hopeful that Canberrans would be able to spend Christmas with friends and family when asked whether residents would be able to travel to other jurisdictions, including those with COVID-19, before the end of the year.

“By Christmas, everyone wants to be in the position where the nation was over 80 per cent vaccinated [and] everyone would love to have as much [safe] travel as possible.

“[However], I cannot speak for other jurisdictions in terms of what their border positions will be – the national plan is silent on state border restrictions, even at 80 per cent,” he explained.

“I do not think anyone wants their Christmas present to their family and friends to be a dose of COVID.”

The ACT is predicted to have 80 per cent of its population aged over 16 fully vaccinated by 12 November, almost a week ahead of the national average, which is expected to hit the same milestone on 17 November, according to COVID Live.

But Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland are all lagging behind the national rate, with COVID Live predicting that the states will reach the milestone on 22 November, 30 November and 9 December respectively.

Mr Barr has consistently said that three weeks would then need to be added to these dates for the vaccine to kick in.

The Chief Minister was more certain that Canberrans would not be travelling outside the ACT during the upcoming school holidays, which coincides with the ACT’s scheduled end to lockdown on 17 September.

“I would not be planning on going anywhere outside the ACT for the school holidays,” he said. “I think every state and territory in Australia has closed its borders to the ACT and I do not think that is likely to change for the coming school holidays.

“I do not want to batter people’s hopes, but I think it is highly unlikely that any state will be open to us, or you will be going into a place that has more COVID than the ACT does at the moment.

“You can be much more confident about planning your summer holidays for December and January.”

12:30 pm: The ACT has 23 new cases of COVID-19 and the total outbreak numbers now stand at 297. Thirteen people are now hospitalised and four of these are in intensive care. One is on ventilation.

None of these patients are fully vaccinated although nine of the 13 have pre-existing conditions.

The positive case from Ainslie Village has now been found, advised of their status and moved to ACT Government quarantine along with two other cases from the facility.

There are no known cases on site and health authorities are quietly optimistic that the risk is limited.

The total ACT outbreak now stands at 297 and 41 cases have now recovered.

Of the 23 announced today, 14 can be linked. Thirteen are household contacts or close social contacts and one is linked to a known cluster. Nine are under early investigation.

Testing rates lifted to 3763 yesterday and Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Vanessa Johnston said at today’s press briefing that there are now more than 200 current exposure locations across Canberra. Dates and times for exposure continue to change as tracing teams receive more information about the number of people who have visited the same site of infection.

There are five new cases associated with the Bright Bees early learning centre, three more with the Mirchi Indian Restaurant and two more Lyneham High school household contacts.

“What we are doing is working, but it remains difficult and challenging,” Dr Johnston said.

“We need to do it for longer, get tested with the mildest of symptoms and always use your Check In CBR app, which is proving very important for tracing teams.”

Travel outside the ACT is unlikely for months, the Chief Minister warned, saying it was unlikely the ACT’s borders would open for some time and he ruled out travel for the school holidays in two weeks.

Tourism is unlikely to recommence until December and aviation, hospitality and accommodation will continue to be affected for some time.

Mr Barr said the changes to public health directions that commence at 5:00 pm tomorrow (Thursday) include non-organised recreational activity like walking, jogging cycling and picnics in the park but not organised boot camps, sports competitions, team training, golf, tennis or organised sports.

Informal, small groups within households, or of no more than five people, can gather. This gives singles and couples some opportunity to interact with others, but Mr Barr said that masks remain mandatory.

“The advice for everyone is that outside of these interactions, keep as far from others as you possibly can all of the time. The purpose of a lockdown is to reduce interactions between people. Outside your home, keep as far from others as possible. Have your mask on, all of this helps reduce the risks of the virus transmitting,” he said.

There have been two small anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown protests at Government House and at Parliament House. Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan said that about 20 people had protested, of whom three had been arrested for breaching directions and two had been directed to leave the ACT.

He expected more protests in the coming weeks.

“I think we want everyone to adhere to the health direction. When people don’t it puts the community at risk and my members at risk. It does make me angry that people want to breach those laws,” he said.

The Chief Police Officer said that while people have democratic rights, these protests were not appropriate, especially when people aren’t local: “Don’t come to Canberra, that’s the message.”

Since the lockdown, ACT Policing has carried out more than 3000 home, hotel and business compliance checks, 11,000 traffic stops including border checks to the north and east and east. They have issued 26 infringements, mostly for not wearing face masks or non-essential travel.

Twenty people have been charged with failing to adhere to health directions, almost all while committing other crimes.

Face masks will be the primary focus of police over coming weeks. Business compliance checks have revealed that on one-third of sites, staff were either not wearing masks or failing to wear them properly.

Mr Barr said that yesterday Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced 500,000 additional Pfizer doses as a vaccine swap with Singapore. Distributed on a per capita basis, the ACT will receive 8344 vaccines. Mr Barr said this was roughly equivalent to a big single day of vaccination across all ACT Government clinics, pharmacies and GPs, but that “every little bit helps”.

Bookings open today for 16 to 29-year-olds at ACT Government clinics and 65,000 new appointments and bookings have been made. Demand is very high and some bookings now stretch out to November although Astra Zeneca is readily available now through GPs and pharmacies.

A new COVID-19 commissioner will be appointed to deal with the impact on small businesses including commercial and residential tenancy issues and there will also be funding for tenancy mediation carried out in good faith.

Andrew Barr

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

11:55 am: The ACT has recorded 23 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours.

Fourteen cases are linked; most are household contacts of existing cases. Nine are under investigation.

Eleven were in quarantine during their infectious period while another 11 were in the community for some of their infectious period.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that the lockdown has reduced the risk those people posed when they were not in quarantine.

In the ACT at the moment, 13 people are in hospital with COVID-19 and four are in intensive care.

None of the people in hospital are fully vaccinated.

A total of 3763 tests were conducted in the ACT yesterday.

Mr Barr urged anyone with COVID symptoms to get tested.

NSW has recorded 1116 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths, all women aged in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

Victoria recorded 120 new cases, the highest daily case count since 25 August when 142 new cases were announced.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

9:50 am: Saint Clare of Assisi Primary School and the school’s outside school hours care have been listed as new exposure locations by ACT Health.

It is the eighth school to be listed as an exposure site since the beginning of the ACT’s outbreak. More than a third of the Territory’s reported cases are people under the age of 18.

Anyone at the school in Conder between 8:00 am and 3:30 pm on Thursday (26 August) is a close contact and must get tested and isolate for 14 days from their exposure, regardless of the test result.

Anyone who was at the outside school hours care between 8:00 am and 8:30 am or 4:00 pm and 4:30 pm on the same day is considered a casual contact and must get tested.

READ ALSO Close, casual or secondary? What the ACT’s contact levels mean for you

Woolworths at Westfield Woden has also been listed as an exposure site between 4:10 pm and 5:15 pm on Saturday, 28 August. People who visited the supermarket between these times are considered to be casual contacts.

Those at Woolworths Weston Creek between 4:40 pm and 5:20 pm or Coles Manuka between 11:40 am and 12:20 pm on Friday, 27 August, must monitor for symptoms.

Woolworths Wanniassa between 4:50 pm and 5:35 pm and Supabarn Express Watson between 6:00 pm and 6:40 pm on Sunday, 29 August, have also been listed as exposure sites. People who attended the stores during these times must monitor for symptoms.

People who went to Coffee Guru Lanyon and the Lanyon Newsagency & Gift Shop, both within the marketplace, between 3:10 pm and 3:50 pm and 3:40 pm and 4:30 pm respectively on Thursday (26 August) are also being told to monitor for symptoms.

Anyone who visited Raku in the city between 6:10 pm and 7:00 pm on Saturday 21 August should also monitor for symptoms.

A number of other takeaway stores have been listed as exposure sites. A full list of exposure locations can be found at www.covid19.act.gov.au.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman will provide a COVID-19 update at 11:45 am.

More to come.

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AB is working to the National Plan of 80%, yet today we hear the NSW Premier has been in the media saying that 70% is the number where they open up.
Being surrounded by NSW, we are prisoners to their success or as we have seen, their failures.

Have you read the national plan?

Because what you just said isn’t correct.

At 70% of over 16s double vacced, Vaccinated citizens are meant to enjoy additional freedoms, which is exactly what the NSW premier said this morning. Nothing to do with a blanket “opening up”, there will still be restrictions in place but they should reduce over time.

Barr has been one of the state and territory leaders attempting to change the national plan by adding significant caveats to what has been agreed, such as including children in the vaccination targets or attacking the modelling. Other state premiers have been worse.

Considering that the ACT is ahead of most of the other states and territories with vaccination rates, we should be better placed to reduce restrictions rather than being slower which is what the ACT government’s recent statements imply.

Not a good start. Outside a large construction site in Manuka today I saw 5-6 hi viz construction worker types, one a truck driver, having an animated conversation in the roadway to its rear – none were wearing a mask and they were not socially distanced. I can handle the ‘colourful’ language but not the blatant breach of requirements. This does not bode well for large construction sites opening up!

Looks very much like we won’t be able to get these numbers down. I’d like to see Canberra set the example and be the first jurisdiction to open up and live with the virus. We have the highest proportion of vaccinated population in the country and so far we are just sitting back and watching NSW forging ahead with return to normalcy.

Our fixation on lockdowns needs to end. The public has such poor understanding of relative risk demonstrated by the hesitancy around AstraZeneca. Vaccinated 70 year olds have the SAME relative risk as an unvaccinated 40 year old. Overweight people that are vaccinated have the same mortality risk as an unvaccinated person of their own age group that are in a normal weight range. RSV, flu and chicken pox all have far more severe health outcomes in children that I will never understand why they need to be vaccinated.

We are missing a golden opportunity here to lead the nation as we are pretty close to the 70% fully Vaxxed target right now.

We are only just over 40% of the eligible population double vacced.

Not “pretty close”to the 70%, probably another 5 weeks away and zero chance of Barr making major changes before we hit 80% anyway based on his statements.

I wouldn’t describe an opportunity to overwhelm our health system with predominantly unvaccinated covid patients as a golden opportunity, but with window dressing skills such as yours, I’m sure you would be a welcome addition to Glady’s media team – you should apply! They need all the help they can get!

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