ACT records 17 new cases of COVID-19, number infectious in the community 'of concern'

© Provided by ABC Health The ACT government yesterday announced additional funding for mental health support, more than five weeks into its lockdown. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

The ACT has recorded 17 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19.

Of the new cases, at least 11 were infectious in the community, with just one confirmed to have been in quarantine for their entire infectious period.

Eight of the new cases are currently unable to be linked to other known cases.

There are now 12 people in hospital with COVID-19, with two patients in the intensive care unit, both requiring ventilation.

There are currently 222 active cases in the territory.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the number of people who had been infectious in the community was concerning, and that some of the new cases were still under investigation.

“The potential risk from the cases announced overnight, particularly the number that has been in the community, is of concern,” he said.

As the outbreak continues, the Australian Defence Force has now joined ACT Policing and New South Wales Police to conduct a series of border-crossing patrols.

ACT Health said yesterday that the virus had been introduced to the territory from at least 10 different sources.

“So this is a reminder to everyone that you need an exemption to travel into the ACT,” Mr Barr said.

Mr Barr added that compliance around the capital had been generally good in the past 24 hours, but reminded people to maintain vigilance.

“Where compliance it is not good is in the one consistent order that we have been repeating nearly every day now for the duration of this lockdown — that is mask-wearing amongst employees and business sites,” Mr Barr said.

“Our compliance teams will continue that focus, continue to remind businesses, those who have already been reminded will not be shown the courtesy of further reminders at this point.”

Among the new exposure sites announced overnight was an ACT school.

The library at St Edmund’s College, Griffith was listed as a close-contact site between 8:10am and 4:15pm on Friday, September 10.

The whole school campus was listed as a casual-contact exposure site between 7:45am and 4:15pm the same day.

Vaccinations expected to exceed 95 per cent

More than 81 per cent of Canberrans aged 12 and over have now received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“That percentage continues to climb daily, and based on the forward bookings we have for people under 40, is now on track to exceed 95 per cent of the ACT population,” he said.

“Around 56 per cent of the population is now fully vaccinated … so it is clear that Canberrans want to get vaccinated.”

To further assist the territory’s healthcare workforce, the government also announced they would hire an additional 90 nurses and midwives as part of the upcoming ACT budget.

The hiring boost has been costed at $50 million for the next four years.

“Our local health care workforce has been there when our city has needed them the most,” Mr Barr said.

“Many have made significant personal sacrifices to support other Canberrans throughout the pandemic.”

Mr Barr repeated that the lockdown would not be lifting once 70 per cent of eligible Canberrans had been fully vaccinated, due to concerns about potentially overwhelming the hospital system.

“We don’t have unlimited hospital beds and we don’t have unlimited intensive care capacity,” he said.

“We’ve already got patients from NSW in hospital in Canberra, because there’s nowhere else for them to go.

“We’ve got a capacity to scale up at the surge centre, we can take our intensive care beds up to the low hundreds. The constraint is staff and the constraint is then what’s happening in surrounding NSW.”

Health authorities issue warnings about social media 

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith took the opportunity at the press conference to dispel a rumour she said had been circulating online.

“A rumour has been circulating on social media that anyone can turn up at the Canberra Hospital today and get a vaccination — this is not the case,” she said.

“There is a vaccination clinic running at Canberra Hospital today, but it is for staff and vulnerable patients.

“We currently have significant visitor restrictions at Canberra Hospital, and this is not a public clinic, so if members of the public do present to Canberra Hospital for a vaccination, you will be turned away.”

Deputy Chief Health Officer Vanessa Johnston also addressed the issue of misinformation.

Asked how people might help family members who had reservations about the vaccine due to misinformation, she urged them to seek out advice directly from a health professional.

“I guess it is beholden on us as family members and friends who are really worried about that person’s circumstances to try and open up that conversation in as non-threatening a way as possible and try and understand what the concerns are,” she said.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there on COVID and a whole range of matters at the moment, that can sort of be promulgated through social media.

“So, I would suggest to those people to go to the trusted sources of information, seek that out, even talk to their GP about how they might be able to have that conversation.”

[Zendesk COVID form embed]

Video: NSW vaccine mandate for aged care workers in effect (Sky News Australia)

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