ACT records 19 new COVID-19 cases, as Canberra’s Delta outbreak grows to over 400 infections

  • General

The ACT has recorded 19 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 — only six of which spent some time in the community while infectious.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said 13 of the new cases had been linked to a known case or exposure site, while six remained under early investigation.

There are currently eight people in hospital with the virus — down from 11 people yesterday. One person is still in intensive care, requiring ventilation.

The total number of infections in the ACT’s outbreak has grown to 404, but now more than 174 cases have recovered — leaving 130 active cases in the national capital.

While announcing the new cases, the majority of questions asked of Mr Barr at the ACT’s press conference were about Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s trip from Canberra to Sydney and back again over the weekend.

Mr Barr said he could “understand the community frustration” — given the lockdowns in both NSW and the ACT — but acknowledged that Mr Morrison had been issued an exemption to travel to and from the territory as an essential worker.

“The Prime Minister’s role is unique in the nation and that is understood,” Mr Barr said.

“And so, this is a balance that we have to strike, it’s not the first time the Prime Minister has sought an exemption. He has undertaken extensive quarantining at the Lodge as well.”

But Mr Barr said he understood that people were “very concerned”.

“It’s a decision the Prime Minister has taken. Is it a cause of concern for many in the community? Well, clearly it is,” he said.

“I don’t offer political advice to the Prime Minister very often, and he probably wouldn’t listen to me anyway. I think these are questions that are probably best posed to him.”

ACT Chief Health Officer Kerry Coleman said it was not her place to discuss any individual exemptions or situations, including those of the Prime Minister.

“Look I don’t comment on individual cases, what I can say to you is that my job as the Chief Health Officer is to protect the ACT community,” she said.

“As part of that we’ve put an exemptions process in place for essential work in activities, and this has been considered in line with those, and granted in line with those.”

Dr Coleman emphasised that there was no proof the Prime Minister’s travel to Sydney had been unsafe and stood by the exemption granted to him.

Mass clinics administered record number of vaccinations yesterday

Mr Barr announced Canberra had seen a record number of vaccinations at mass vaccination hubs on Monday.

“Yesterday we set a new record for the number of vaccinations,” he said.

“Within our two clinics, there were more than 3,000 doses administered — a record day of vaccination for ACT government clinics.”

Mr Barr said 71.4 per cent of eligible ACT residents aged over 16 had now received their first dose.

But he warned that this number needed to continue to rise.

“And 267,000 are not fully vaccinated.”

Mr Barr said those figures meant the ACT was still “several months away” from 80 per cent of the population aged over 12 being fully vaccinated, and said the vaccination program remained the government’s number-one priority.

The ACT government yesterday recommended a shorter interval between AstraZeneca doses while the territory was in the middle of an outbreak.

Mr Barr said an increase in testing in the territory was also encouraging to see.

“Testing numbers increased significantly, yesterday to nearly 3,500,” he said.

“This is a big increase that we’re really pleased to see, and we thank everyone for coming forward to get tested.”

Vaccination for pregnant Canberrans

Acting clinical director in obstetrics and gynaecology ACT, Natalie De Cure, said the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, as well as the Australian College of Midwives, were both advocating for pregnant women to be vaccinated at any stage of their pregnancy.

“The antibodies that mum makes do cross the placenta, so we’ve got that added potential that baby may be born with some protection,” Dr De Cure said.

Dr De Cure said there was no increased risk of miscarriage or other complications for pregnant women in their first trimester, and encouraged expectant mothers in Canberra to make a vaccination booking as soon as they could.

Dr De Cure said that women who were in their third trimester should access vaccination as well, saying one dose was better protection than no dose.

“For the women out there who are nearing their time of birth, maybe you’re going to [give birth] in the next couple of days or weeks. There is still time to get that one dose, and we know that a single dose is still of benefit,” she said.