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UPDATED: ACT cluster grows to four

Dominic Giannini12 August 2021
Dr Kerryn Coleman

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman has confirmed three more cases. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

UPDATED 5:10 pm: The ACT cluster has grown to four after three more people returned positive tests following the announcement of the ACT’s first case in over a year this morning (12 August).

The new cases were among the man’s initial nine close contacts. The remaining six have tested negative, Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman confirmed.

It is still unknown if the man has the delta variant.

Due to long lines at the COVID testing centre at EPIC, reported to be well in excess of six hours, Dr Coleman encouraged only people with COVID symptoms to get tested.

ACT Health says the main symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • fever
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath
  • loss of smell or taste.

Less common symptoms are:

  • runny or blocked nose
  • muscle pain
  • joint pain
  • diarrhoea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue.

Symptoms can develop between two to 14 days after you are exposed to the virus.

Most commonly, symptoms develop five or six days after exposure.

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain or severe fever, call triple zero (000).

UPDATED 3:13 pm:

UPDATED 2:30 pm: Panic buying is already starting in Canberra with hour-long lines emerging outside supermarkets as the ACT prepares to enter its first lockdown since April last year.

The ACT has effectively shut its border to most of NSW. Only residents within a 100-kilometre radius of the Territory are able to enter without an exemption. This includes Queanbeyan, Yass, Murrumbatemen and Bungendore, but does not include Goulburn.

Canberrans have also been told explicitly not to look for loopholes in restrictions and to avoid making a break for the coast, with both NSW Police and ACT Policing patrolling to catch anyone trying to flout the new measures.

NSW has not yet declared the ACT a hotspot zone, but if it does move in line with other jurisdictions, Canberrans needing to move across the border will only be able to do so for essential reasons, in line with the Canberra lockdown.

At today’s press conference, Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman detailed the current situation in the ACT, notably:

  • The ACT will enter a seven-day lockdown from 5:00 pm tonight (12 August) after a 27-year-old man tested positive and was in the community while infectious. His partner is in isolation.
  • The man visited several locations in Fychwich, Manuka, Mitchell, Cook, Kingston and the city between 8 August and 11 August. Everyone who was at a listed location is being treated as a close contact and must get tested and isolate for 14 days.
  • It remains unknown where the man caught the virus or what strain it is, but Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman says it is likely the delta variant.

The full list of exposure sites is available here.

Canberra’s mask mandate has been brought back and masks must be worn by people over the age of 12 at all times when leaving the house.

People will be allowed to leave home for an hour of exercise each day, for essential work or healthcare, for compassionate reasons such as visiting terminally ill relatives, to shop for essential items, to access childcare or school, to attend a funeral or wedding in line with restrictions, or to receive a COVID-19 test or vaccination.

Exercise can be done with one other person, or more if everyone is from the same household.

Residents are allowed to visit intimate partners and there are provisions for a ‘single’s bubble’ where people who live alone can identify one other household they can visit and receive visits from.

The number of close contacts is not yet known but ACT Health was managing around 1000 people in quarantine before the case and this is expected to increase dramatically.

ACT Health authorities are urging any identified contacts or anyone with symptoms to come forward but have warned anxious people who do not have symptoms to remain at home to avoid ballooning testing times across Canberra.

Canberra’s testing clinics will begin to expand their testing capacity and the drive-through centre has the potential to operate 24-hours a day. A new testing facility will be opened at the Brindabella Business Park to take the pressure off other testing sites.

A full list of testing sites can be found at www.covid19.act.gov.au.

Mr Barr confirmed that Canberrans will be able to access the same disaster payments from the Commonwealth Government that are available in other jurisdictions after speaking with the Prime Minister this morning.

UPDATED 12:45 pm: Health officials say a man in his 20s is believed to have been infectious in the community since last Sunday, as Canberra enters its first lockdown in more than a year.There is no indication at this stage where or how the man acquired COVID-19.

At an emergency press conference at midday, Chief Minister Andrew Barr described the current situation as “the most significant health risk in the ACT since the beginning of the pandemic”.

A list of exposure venues includes Coles Manuka, Harvey Norman and Freedom Furniture at Fyshwick, Assembly Bar in Braddon, the North Canberra business centre and others. A full list of venues is available here.

Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman said all venues have been identified as close contacts as a precautionary approach. Anyone who has visited those venues must enter full quarantine for 14 days, get tested and remain in quarantine even if they test negative.

“We have no source or link for this case,” Dr Coleman said.

“We are undertaking intensive case investigation and looking back for 14 days to identify where this comes from.”

Genome sequencing is expected to be complete by lunchtime tomorrow (13 August) and Dr Coleman was hopeful a link could be established with the Greater Sydney outbreak.

Regarding the decision to impose a swift, hard lockdown, Mr Barr said lessons had been learned from the Sydney and Melbourne experiences that “immediate and significant public health responses are needed to get ahead of the Delta strain”.

“This is the best path to pursue to protect the community’s health and avoid even longer lockdowns,” Mr Barr said.

Canberrans can leave home only for essential purposes including employment, healthcare, vaccination and one hour of exercise.

“Our general guidance is to stay within your local area. If you live in Belconnen, then exercise in Belconnen, get your groceries and essential supplies in Belconnen. Do not be travelling across the ACT for exercise or essential supplies,” Mr Barr said.

While general retail will be closed, Mr Barr said that people should shop for groceries and medication as swiftly as possible.

“We need people to come in, get what they need and leave. This is not an opportunity to go to Bunnings or hang around locals shops. Get in, get what you need and leave.”

Family members should not visit other households but remain within their immediate households.

Mask wearing will also become mandatory and Mr Barr said everyone must wear a mask at all times outside their homes unless medically exempt or undertaking vigorous exercise.

Testing centre hours at EPIC and Weston Creek will be significantly expanded and a new testing centre will be set up at Brindabella Business Park.

Mr Barr indicated that it would be possible for EPIC to operate 24 hours per day. Anyone contacted by ACT Health should be tested immediately and the government expects testing demand to increase significantly.

“We have one opportunity to stamp this out. We have a collective responsibility to each other to be successful”, Mr Barr said.

UPDATED 11:35 am: The ACT will enter a seven-day lockdown from 5:00 pm today, the Chief Minister has confirmed.

It will be the Territory’s first lockdown since the early days of the pandemic, triggered by a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

The confirmed case was infectious in the community.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said in a statement that COVID-19 has also been detected in Canberra’s wastewater, but the source of the infection is still unknown.

Mandatory mask-wearing will also return to the ACT.

“We have said throughout the outbreak in Greater Sydney that we would act quickly and decisively. We have seen that a short and immediate lockdown limits the potential spread of the virus, and is the best path to avoiding longer and more damaging lockdowns,” Mr Barr said.

“This will be the first time that the ACT has entered a lockdown of this nature since the early days of the pandemic.

“During this time, Canberrans are being asked to only leave their homes for essential reasons – essential employment, healthcare (including a COVID-19 vaccination), essential groceries and supplies, and up to one hour of outdoor exercise.

“General retail will be closed, and hospitality venues will only be able to operate takeaway services. We will be asking any businesses that have to remain open to actively prevent any browsing in their stores.

“Now more than ever, the use of the Check In CBR app is critical when leaving your home.”

Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman will be holding a press conference at 12:15 pm.

More to come.

Original Article published by Dominic Giannini on The RiotACT.

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