ACT records 51 new cases of COVID-19 as mandatory vaccination for early childhood workers, primary teachers introduced

| 13.10,21. 04:13 PM |


ACT records 51 new cases of COVID-19 as mandatory vaccination for early childhood workers, primary teachers introduced


More than 73 per cent of Canberrans are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)


The ACT has recorded 51 new cases of COVID-19, as Canberrans count down the days until the end of lockdown.

Of the new cases, at least 22 spent some of their infectious period in the community. 13 were in quarantine for their entire infectious period.

Of the total cases, 32 are linked to a known source.

There are currently 16 COVID-19 patients in hospital — eight are in the intensive care unit, five requiring ventilation.

More than 73 per cent of eligible Canberrans are fully vaccinated against the virus, with health authorities expecting the territory to reach the 99 per cent milestone by the end of November.

ACT Health said 98.5 per cent of those aged 12 and over have now received a first dose.

Vaccination mandated for early childhood workers, primary teachers

The ACT government has announced that by November, vaccination will be mandated for staff working across certain early childhood settings and in primary schools.

Under the new direction, first-dose vaccination will be required by no later than November 1, and a second dose by November 29.

The rule will also apply to certain staff working in out of school hours care, and specialist and flexible education settings.

It will apply to teachers, early childhood educators, learning and support staff, administrative staff, canteen workers and cleaners who are in direct contact with children, as well as allied health professionals who regularly attend relevant schools.

“We already know through staff surveys and the total population vaccination rates that we have exceptionally high levels of vaccination in these settings,” Mr Barr said.

A woman kneels to a table where several students are working.
The ACT government has introduced a vaccine mandate for certain workers in early childhood education and primary school settings.(ABC News: Jake Evans)

Mr Barr said the mandate could be extended to apply to other settings.

"[The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee] and the Chief Health Officer is also preparing advice for National Cabinet to extend mandates to other high risk settings, and this includes disability care," he said.

"We look forward to receiving that expert advice."

Changes to exposure site listings to begin from October 15

The ACT's lockdown is due to end at 11.59pm on Thursday, with new details about the pathway forward released yesterday by ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

The new details outlined what will be possible from Friday, including allowing up to five people to gather in another household.

Licensed venues will be able to have 25 customers across their venues, or one person per four square metres — whichever is less.

Hairdressers, swimming pools and non-essential retail will be permitted to reopen at limited capacity.

While testing will continue to be important, Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman said ACT Health would no longer be listing certain exposure sites which had been deemed low risk from October 15.

Those will include takeaway cafes and restaurants, click and collect retail, pharmacies, contact with food delivery, and in some instances large retail venues were a customer has used self-service facilities like transport, playgrounds, sporting grounds, petrol stations and ATMs.

An empty restaurant in Canberra's city centre.
The ACT has been in lockdown since August 12.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

"Given the low potential for transmission weighed up against the high impact on the community and businesses in regards to quarantine requirements, we will no longer be listing monitor for symptoms sites, and will only list casual exposure sites where there is a higher risk for potential public health impact," she said.

Those identified as secondary contacts will also no longer be required to quarantine.

Barr acknowledges border bubble confusion ahead of lockdown's end

Mr Barr also addressed confusion around travel into the expanded border bubble in NSW from October 15.

Under the ACT rules that will take effect from Friday, Canberrans will be permitted to make household visits in that region.

However, NSW Health has not yet issued advice as to whether its own rules will be in agreement.

Currently, Canberrans will only be permitted to enter border bubble regions for essential purposes.

These purposes include medical or healthcare needs, work which is permitted under NSW restrictions, and childcare arrangements for essential workers.

But Mr Barr said further advice from NSW Health was expected in the coming days.

"So, once you leave the ACT, regardless of whether you're an ACT resident or not, and go into NSW, you are subject to the rules in NSW," he said.

"We can [normalise the rules] when NSW are in a position to do so and when we are in a position to do so.

"I appreciate it's frustrating for everyone, but this is 99 per cent driven by NSW processes because it's their local government areas."

Caution urged as increase in case numbers recorded

Mr Barr said today's 51 new cases was an increase on the past few days and a reminder to exercise caution in the community.

"New clusters can still emerge, especially in workplace settings, amongst unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people," he said.

He said some Canberrans were still waiting too long to come forward for testing.

"Canberra Health Services have advised this week that they've had people present to the emergency department, who have had symptoms for days, but have not come forward until [they were] so sick that they required emergency treatment," he said.

"There are too many people ending up in a hospital or in intensive care, who may have had a very different experience if they came forward for testing when they first got symptoms, and the virus was able to be detected sooner."

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman gives a press conference.
Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman said some changes to which exposure sites were listed on the ACT Health website would take effect from October 15.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Dr Coleman echoed Mr Barr's advice.

"Please, everyone, continue to get tested immediately if you experience any symptoms of COVID-19, or if you have been to a close contact exposure location — whether you were vaccinated or not," she said.

Dr Coleman said the next three months were "critical" in understanding how the virus was spreading and affecting the Canberra community.

"The next three months is going to be critical to continue to detect cases early," she said.

"We need to be able to measure how this reacts, how does community react, how the cases react, moving forward."

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