5 June 2024

Visitor restrictions, masks back at Canberra's public health spaces as respiratory illnesses soar

| Claire Fenwicke
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Sir Robert Menzies statue wearing a mask.

You’ll need to wear a mask in the public areas of any Canberra Health Services facility as the Territory experiences an uptick in respiratory virus cases. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Visitor restrictions and mask mandates are back in Canberra’s public health spaces due to an uptick in the number of respiratory viruses in the Territory.

Canberra Health Services (CHS) has moved its alert level to ‘amber’, meaning a maximum of two visitors will be allowed at a patient’s bedside, increased COVID-19 testing for hospital patients, and the requirement to wear a mask when in a clinical or publicly accessible space of a CHS facility.

These include North Canberra Hospital, Canberra Hospital, the University of Canberra Hospital, Walk-in Centres and other community facilities.

CHS Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr Sanjaya Senanayake said it was always expected that respiratory illnesses would increase in winter, but recent increases in COVID-19, RSV and flu cases meant precautionary steps were needed.

“Influenza and RSV – the numbers are still pretty high but have largely stabilised. We’re seeing a lot of those infections in children,” he said.

“But we’re now seeing a lot of COVID, particularly in older people.”

As of Tuesday (4 June), there were 60 people with COVID in Canberra’s hospitals, along with 10 people with influenza and 19 with RSV. This does not mean the viruses are the primary reason the patients have been admitted.

According to the latest ACT Health reporting period (24 to 30 May), COVID-19 case notification numbers increased to 242, compared to 159 cases in the previous week and 146 in the week before.

Influenza case notification numbers increased slightly to 95 compared to 81 the previous week.

RSV case notification numbers remained steady, with 186 compared to 197 the previous week.

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Whole genome sequencing isn’t occurring in the ACT anymore, but nationally there’s been an increase in the JN1 subvariant of Omicron and its mutation, known as FLiRT strains.

Canberra hasn’t been experiencing more severe disease in people with the newer mutations.

While South Australia has put a pause on elective surgeries due to a spike in COVID-19 cases there, Dr Senanayake said the amber level would not cause the same to happen in the Territory at this stage.

“We’re not cancelling elective surgery because we don’t think we’re anywhere near that stage at the moment,” he said.

“This is a good opportunity for us to increase our surveillance and precautions and get the community aware of COVID.”

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Canberrans have been reminded there are many ways to protect themselves against respiratory viruses during the cooler months, including staying up-to-date with vaccinations, washing or sanitising hands frequently, coughing and sneezing into your elbow, and staying home if you’re unwell.

Those at a higher risk of severe illness are advised to speak with their doctor or healthcare professional to devise a plan about what to do if they become unwell. This should cover testing, treatment and healthcare options.

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Infectious diseases expert Tattymane: there is absolutely no good evidence to support the wearing of masks.

The manufacturers of the masks put an explicit statement on the box saying they are not respirators and provide no protection against covid. I’ll take that over a UNSW blog post.

“the masks”?
To what level of mask or respirator under AS/NZS 1716 are you referring?
Why does no such declaration appear on masks which surpass P2 standards for non-surgical respirators?

The cemetery is a risk free place, too.

Not saying precautions can’t be taken, but they mustn’t be a war against humanity and life, which this mask wearing clearly is, especially when taken in context of its origins during the ‘pandemic’.

The war against ‘toxic masculinity’ and all the soy in the food makes this difficult for people today to understand, there being nothing people won’t agree to for fools’ gold

Should be masks at the hospital always..protect the ill..😷

At last! Protective measures to be taken against COVID and other respiratory diseases. About time. But it’s a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Next step, please, free RSV vaccine for all who need it.

Why can’t they just give us the numbers of people who are in hospital with one of these things as the cause of their hospitalisation? Why does the stupid game continue? Tiresome.

Hi Ken that info you’re after is contained within the article “As of Tuesday (4 June), there were 60 people with COVID in Canberra’s hospitals, along with 10 people with influenza and 19 with RSV. This does not mean the viruses are the primary reason the patients have been admitted.” like it’s not hard to decipher

Why don’t they just tell us the number of people whos primary reason for admission was covid or RSV? Why include people who happen to have covid but were admitted for some other completely unrelated reason? It’s not hard for them to give accurate information.

Why are you happy being deceived?

CaptainSpiff8:26 pm 05 Jun 24

Straight out of the Covid playbook. Public health authorities just can’t resist playing this game.

It’s flat out insane that people attempt to justify being lied to by officials. They have the info. Just present it without the spin. This garbage caused all the mistrust during the lockdowns.

In which a couple of people shout their ignorance of matters medical and epidemiological.

I guess extreme prejudice has always been contrary to knowledge. Those lying witches won’t burn themselves y’know.

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