The ACT has recorded its first cases of COVID-19 in more than a month, with three new cases emerging during the past 24 hours.
The three cases are all in the same household and are directly linked to the second wave of the virus in Victoria.
ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said although the risk of community transmission is low, those who were at the Fyshwick Markets on Saturday, 4 July between 3:00 pm and 4:00 pm and Westfield Belconnen on Monday, 6 July between 12:00 pm and 12:30 pm should be extra vigilant.
Dr Coleman says the new cases will likely lead to the postponement of the next stage of eased restrictions, which were scheduled for this Friday (10 July).
At this stage, there are no plans to impose stricter restrictions.
“We are not seeing evidence of community transmission in Canberra,” Dr Coleman said. “It is unlikely that we will see it in the next few days so we will need to monitor this for at least a fortnight to see what is happening in the ACT.”
An update to Canberra’s testing regime has also been flagged for the next few days.
The three new COVID-19 cases are one female and two males aged in their 20s. Two of the individuals arrived in the ACT from a Melbourne hotspot on Thursday (2 July) and the other is a household contact.
A small number of close contacts have been identified and are being managed in accordance with the national guidelines, ACT Health said. Travellers, including returning ACT residents, must self-quarantine if they have returned from Victoria under next restrictions that were imposed on Monday (6 July).
Although the self-isolation regime is being left up to the individual to organise and does not include mandatory quarantining in hotels like international arrivals, Dr Coleman maintained that the risk of disobedience was low with good home quarantine compliance.
“It is actually easier for people staying in quarantine at home rather than doing it in a hotel,” Dr Coleman said.
“We have a compliance plan that identified a range of risk profiles for different people in the community and there is a range of checks that are being done. There will be several [tests] done per person.
“We are confident the risk to the broader ACT community is low,” Dr Coleman said.
However, testing will not be compulsory for people who have returned from Melbourne or COVID -19 hotspots before the mandatory isolation measures were put in place.
“A negative result does not actually tell us anything,” Dr Coleman said. “You can incubate the infection for a full 14-days before you have symptoms so if I had been in Melbourne five days ago and had a test done, it does not mean I won’t be infected sometime in the next week or so.
“There is really no point in making it mandatory to be tested unless you have symptoms.”
From 12.01 am today (8 July), the ACT has closed its borders for anyone travelling into the ACT from Victoria, unless you have an exemption to enter.
ACT residents are approved to return to their home, subject to entering quarantine for a period of 14 days from the day after leaving Victoria. ACT residents must notify ACT Health of their intention to enter the ACT.
Around 200 exemptions have already been applied for as of midday Wednesday (8 July), most of whom are returning ACT residents.
Details are available on the COVID-19 website. Quarantine checks will be made in partnership with ACT Policing.
The news comes as a Victorian teenager has also tested positive for COVID-19 while on a South Coast holiday.
The teenager and his family were tested for COVID-19 before heading to Merimbula. They were told the tests were negative but when they arrived in NSW they were told the teenage boy’s test was actually positive. The family is currently isolating in Merimbula.
“Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should attend one of our testing centres to be tested,” Dr Coleman said.
“This is why we have implemented new Public Health Directions that restrict travel to the ACT from Victoria. It is also a critical reminder that no one should be travelling to Victoria except for absolutely essential reasons,” said Dr Coleman.
The ACT Government also has a helpline to assist Canberrans through the challenges of COVID-19. The COVID-19 Helpline is 02 6207 7244 and is open between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm daily.
This brings the ACT’s total to 111 positive tests for COVID-19. The number of negative tests in the ACT is now 33,115.