UPDATED 2:30 pm: A COVID-19 outbreak has been identified in a cancer ward at The Canberra Hospital and authorities have warned of an impending wave of COVID-19 cases this winter.
Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith today said the Territory’s hospitals continue to remain under pressure and there is now evidence that visitor-to-patient COVID-19 transmission is taking place.
She described the outbreak in the cancer ward as “a significant cause of concern” and said it was being treated “very seriously”.
Ms Stephen-Smith urged anyone considering visiting a loved one in hospital, at a residential aged care facility or a residential disability provider, to take a rapid antigen test (RAT) first and return a negative test result.
“Please also wear a mask when you are visiting … take all the appropriate precautions and just assume that you have COVID-19,” she said.
“That will help minimise the spread of COVID-19 within our high-risk settings.”
The Health Minister reiterated comments Canberra Health Services executives have been making for months – not everyone in hospital with COVID-19 is there because of COVID-19.
Some patients are only found to be COVID-19-positive after being admitted, while others are infected by visitors, for example.
But she noted that winter illnesses and respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, are increasing the pressure across the ACT health services.
The latest modelling provided to the ACT’s Cabinet suggested caseloads will begin to increase throughout July and into the month of August.
12 pm: The Territory has recorded 927 new COVID-19 infections in the 24 hours to 8 pm yesterday and there are now 119 people receiving care in ACT hospitals with the virus.
It comes as the ACT Government announced it would close the Equity to Access COVID-19 vaccination program at the end of this month.
That program had offered in-home vaccinations and in-reach vaccinations through community organisations and partners, and pop-up vaccination clinics across Canberra for people who faced high COVID-19 health risks and/or significant barriers to accessing mainstream health services.
Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said demand had dropped and the service was no longer needed.
“While our mass vaccination clinics, GPs and pharmacies completed hundreds of thousands of vaccinations, we knew that these options did not suit everyone,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
“Some people may have had difficulties leaving their homes, faced significant transport or online booking difficulties, or had a negative experience accessing mainstream healthcare.”
Since September 2021, the program has administered 3189 vaccinations across 47 pop-up vaccination clinics, 70 in-reach clinics and 149 in-home visits.
The Health Minister said there were still options available to people who faced barriers to getting vaccinated through their GP or pharmacy, including the Access and Sensory Clinic for people with disability or sensory needs, the specialist vaccination clinic at the hospital for people with severe needle phobia, or via specialised services for people who are unable to leave their home.
Two ACT public schools have sent multiple student cohorts home as existing teacher shortages continue to be exacerbated by the pandemic.
Years 5, 6 and 8 at Amaroo School will have their last day of remote learning tomorrow (Tuesday, 28 June) while Years 1 and 2 at Duffy Primary School will be learning from home for the entire week.
Public schools have repeatedly been forced to employ remote learning throughout the term, including two schools that sent the entire student body home under the highest level of the ACT Education Directorate’s plans for managing staff shortages.
With the 927 (452 PCR and 475 RAT) cases recorded overnight, there are now 6141 active infections in the Territory.
A total of 153,903 COVID-19 cases have been recorded since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Of the 119 people now in hospital, only one person is in the ICU and no one is being ventilated.
Yesterday, the ACT reported 819 new COVID-19 infections and 116 people in hospital with the virus.
The double-dose vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population remains 97.3 per cent and 77.2 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have received a booster.
Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 68.7 per cent have received two doses of vaccine.
Interstate, NSW has reported 11 deaths overnight and 6862 new cases of COVID-19.
There are now 1507 people in hospital with the virus and 55 people in ICUs around the state.
Victoria has reported one death overnight and 6305 cases of COVID-19.
There are 459 people hospitalised with the virus, while 26 patients are in the state’s intensive care units.