17 August 2021

UPDATED: New cases include man in his 20s with 'no obvious links', snow tourist turned away

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

UPDATED 1:40 pm: More than 940 swabs were taken at the Gold Creek pop up testing clinic yesterday (14 August), which opened in response to a 14-year-old student testing positive the day before.

The Gold Creek School in Kelleway Avenue, Nicholls, including the Early Childhood Learning Centre, have been listed as exposure sites between 9 and 12 August. The Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School has been listed as a casual exposure location.

One close contact of the case has since tested positive but Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman would not confirm whether the contact was in the same household or another student.

The source of the infection remains unknown.

The number of close contacts associated with the school was in excess of 1860 people as of Friday.

The Gold Creek testing site is located at Gold Creek School and is only available to students, staff and visitors to the school (check Facebook for further information, including testing times).

Family members are not required to be tested (unless symptomatic).

For more information about exposure locations in the ACT, visit covid19.act.gov.au.

12:30 pm: ACT Policing has turned back four cars at the border, one of which had travelled from Kiama and was trying to reach the snow. The matter has been referred to NSW Police.

Police stopped more than 550 vehicles along the border yesterday (14 August), including 350 on Lanyon Drive, the main arterial road between Queanbeyan and Canberra, as the lockdown across all of regional NSW came into effect at 5:00 pm.

ACT Policing also conducted 140 compliance checks across Canberra businesses, hotels and residences. No breaches were reported.

Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan asked Canberras getting takeaway coffees and meals to not linger outside cafes and restaurants once they have received their order.

There are now over 40 exposure locations across Canberra and the cluster has grown to nine.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said investigations were continuing into the origins of the original case which prompted the ACT’s lockdown. It has been definitively linked to a number of cases in Sydney.

Dr Coleman said it remained unknown where Canberra’s first case was exposed to the virus and if there were any intermediaries.

“Part of the ongoing investigation is looking at all the potential linkages and we still have not nailed that one either,” she said.

“[The original case] is certainly one of the important aspects to the consideration [of extending lockdown]. But the second important aspect is the degree of testing in the community and our ability to feel confident that if there were other cases out there, then we would have picked them up.

“In some cases, investigations into clusters and outbreaks have not been able to figure out where or how seeding occurred. But we get to the point where we are confident that those chains of transmission have petered out, we have them under control and the ongoing risk is limited.”

Wastewater results are expected to be returned tomorrow, which will reveal more information about the viruses spread in the ACT and any areas of concern.

AFP directing traffic

ACT Policing turned back four cars at the border yesterday (14 August). Photo: Michelle Kroll.

12:00 pm: A man in his 20s with no obvious links to previous infections is one of two new positive COVID-19 diagnoses in the ACT, and the Chief Health Officer said we need to be realistic about the extent of the lockdown, currently due to end on Thursday (19 August).

Sixteen Department of Defence staff will also be deployed through ACT Health and embedded in ACT clinical teams to support the testing effort.

The other new positive case has been linked back to the Fiction nightclub. Chief Health Office Dr Kerryn Coleman says the diagnosis demonstrates the critical importance of testing and quarantine for everyone who has been at a close or casual exposure site.

“If you are a close or casual contact please take this seriously – this demonstrates a possible transmission in an exposure site,” she said at today’s press conference update. “The good news is none of these cases have been hospitalised”.

Dr Coleman added that all active cases are appropriately isolated, being supported by ACT Health and monitored for health, wellbeing and compliance.

Around 5700 people have self-identified as close contacts and the number of exposure sites is now more than 40 and growing.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that 5943 tests had been conducted across the ACT in the past day.

“This is an all-time record level of testing across all sites”, Mr Barr said. He thanked ACT Health and private pathology providers for an enormous effort in enabling the testing to occur.

As pressure grows at Weston Creek with the announcement that there are new close contact sites at Lennock Motors in Phillip, people are being requested to consider getting tested at Brindabella, EPIC, or private provider sites.

Mr Barr welcomed the move to lock down all of regional NSW, which brings the border area and greater Canberra region into alignment with restrictions in the ACT.

“If you’re in the Canberra region there are a small number of essential reasons why you could travel, but the best thing to do is to stay at home,” Mr Barr said.

“This gives us an extra layer of protection whether you are in the ACT or on the NSW side of the border. Staying at home as much as possible is the best protection.

“We are aware of the challenges the cross border situation presents. We are working to make it as straightforward as possible. Unless you absolutely need to leave home, don’t.”

Mr Barr said he had been notified of the increased number of Pfizer doses just before the public announcement this morning. There will be an additional 14,000 doses for the ACT but these will not be available until batch testing has been carried out in around a week.

However, Mr Barr said this would represent around a week’s more supply of Pfizer for the Territory.

“Thank you to Canberrans who are doing the right thing. It is so pleasing to see the seriousness with which Canberrans are responding.

“Keep doing what you’re doing – staying at home, supporting each other and if you have symptoms, coming forward to get tested”.

10:50 am: Two new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the ACT, bringing the total number of active cases to nine as of 7:00 pm last night (14 August).

Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith, Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman and Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan will provide an update on the situation at 11:45 am.

10:30 am: More sites have been identified as close contact locations as contact tracers work to map out Canberra’s possible COVID-19 exposure.

There are as yet unconfirmed reports that a person who was at the Southern Cross Stadium at Pitman St in Greenway on 11 August has tested positive.

The ACT Health update is expected at 11:45 am today, but Basketball ACT advised members last night that a positive case was at their stadium at Greenway on Wednesday night.

“Resulting from the recent COVID outbreak in the ACT region, Basketball ACT have unfortunately been made aware this evening that one of our members has tested positive to the virus, and the Tuggeranong Stadium has now been listed as a casual exposure site relating to Wednesday evening (11 August 2021),” the message said.

“Basketball ACT will liaise with ACT Health and will continue to receive any necessary updates and advice to provide to our clubs and members.

“In the interim we would encourage all of our members to continue to comply with ACT Government directives including staying home during the shutdown period, and continuing to practice good hygiene and use the Check In CBR App if you must leave the home.”

The message appeared on the Basketball ACT Facebook page and in a letter sent to members by the organisation’s chief executive, David Simpson.

ACT Health says that high testing demand is being experienced at Weston Creek Testing Clinic with long wait times this morning.

Anyone who needs to get tested is asked to consider using one of the other testing locations.

Lennock Jaguar Land Rover on Melrose Drive has now been identified as a close-contact exposure site for five days last week from Monday.

Club Lime, Lower Ground Floor, Bonner House, Bradley Street, is also now a close contact site from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm on 9 August.

The list of new close contact sites also identifies the Gold Creek School, Kelleway Avenue (including Early Childhood Learning Centre) on 12 August between 8:00 am and 3:10 pm. Earlier in the week, the same location was identified as an exposure site for 11 August between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, and 9 August between 8:25 am and 5:00 pm.

The casual contact site list has also been updated and now includes Coles Amaroo, Horse Park Drive on 8 August from 4:00 pm to 4:20 pm, the Abode Hotel at 14 Kennedy Street, Kingston (Floors 1, 2 and 3) on 11 August between 7:50 am and midnight and on 12 August from midnight to 7:00 pm.

The Southern Cross Club Stadium at 7 Pitman Street, Greenway is on the list for 11 August between 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm as a casual contact site.

The full list of close contact and casual contact exposure sites is here.

ACT Policing and NSW Police say they will conduct a number of joint patrol activities at major entry points along the border as part of ongoing compliance checks across the Territory.

Yesterday, ACT Policing and NSW Police spoke with 365 drivers at Lanyon Drive. Seven cars were turned around with several cautions and fines issued.

ACT Policing Road Policing Superintendent Corey Heldon said people should expect to see these joint operations anywhere, anytime.

“Right now there are COVID-19 health directions which allow and restrict the movement of people who live and work across the border,” Superintendent Heldon said.

“There are many roads leading into Canberra and police may be patrolling different roads at the border at different times in the coming days.”

Monaro Police Area Commander, Superintendent John Klepczarek said the NSW Police Force and ACT Policing continue to have a strong working relationship.

“The benefits of working closely with our border counterparts enable us to conduct joint operations like these dedicated to ongoing COVID-19 compliance,” Superintendent Klepczarek said.

“As we see the virus spreading into regional areas it is vital agencies work together to keep the community safe at this time.”

Original Article published by Genevieve Jacobs on The RiotACT.

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