Thirteen new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the ACT as the virus moves into high gear, although authorities continue to insist that the large majority of local cases are directly connected with international travel.
Speaking at a press conference at 1.30 pm today (23 March), Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman told media that there were five males and eight females, aged from 14 to 83, including including the Lynhem High student revealed late yesterday and five passengers form the Ruby Princess cruise ship.
This comes after yesterday’s announcement that cases had doubled over the weekend. The total number of confirmed cases in the ACT now stands at 32.
The ACT Government has also announced restrictions on visits to aged care homes to protect vulnerable residents and patients.
Dr Coleman said that the increase was largely related to people returning from overseas travel and their close contacts. She confirmed that the Lyneham High student whose case was reported late yesterday was a close contact of a previously confirmed case, who was likely to have been overseas.
She said the student was potentially infectious for only one day at school – Tuesday of last week. “As soon as the student knew they were sick they self-isolated at home.The student did exactly the right thing at that time,” Dr Coleman said.
She said the student did not take light rail to or from school.
“If he or she travelled on light rail during the period of time when they were a risk to the community I would have told the community,” Dr Coleman said. ”You can assume that there was no risk of exposure to the community if I haven’t provided that detail.”
But it was possible that the student had passed on the virus.
The school is closed today for cleaning. All ACT schools will be pupil free from tomorrow until the school holidays.
There are now three confirmed COVID-19 patients in the Canberra Hospital and their condition was described as stable. ”Contact tracing is a priority for ACT Health and is currently taking place,” Dr Coleman said. “The majority are well and self-isolating at home with the support of ACT Health.”
Dr Coleman said the community response to self-isolation and quarantine had been positive in the ACT and urged anyone who had recently returned to Canberra from overseas to check travel details from confirmed cases, including flight passenger rows, on the ACT Health website.
She said that while there was no evidence yet of community transmission that situation was expected to change and again stressed the importance of practising social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, after a weekend when it was flouted.
“We’re all coming to terms with changing our environment and what this means to us in terms of living our lives. I think we we’re all a little bit disappointed on the weekend,” he said.
ACT Health had now conducted more than 2500 negative tests.
The Government has also move to restrict visits to aged care homes, where the consequences can be catastrophic.
From tonight, apart from employees, contractors, service providers and emergency responders, care and support visits will be limited to one visit per day of no longer than two hours made to the resident by one person, or two persons together; and visitors providing end of life support to loved ones.
People who are unwell with a fever, have arrived in Australia from overseas within the last 14 days, have come into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or do not have an up-to-date influenza vaccination (when available) will not be permitted to enter an aged care facility.
Young people under 16 years of age will only be permitted in an aged care facility for compassionate reasons when someone is dying.