Australia

The ACT records one new local COVID-19 case as source of outbreak linked to Greater Sydney

The Australian Capital Territory has recorded one new locally acquired case of COVID-19, a close contact of an existing case.

The new case takes total cases in the ACT’s outbreak to seven, with the territory in lockdown until at least Thursday.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said genomic sequencing had confirmed the source of the ACT’s outbreak was linked to “several cases in Greater Sydney”.

“I’m pleased that we locked down when we did, it was definitely the right decision and has clearly reduced the risk to our community,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Friday was “a record day of testing in the ACT”, with 4500 tests conducted and hundreds more already completed on Saturday morning, Mr Barr said.

“That gives us a great day of surveillance in terms of the spread of the virus,” he said.

Asked about whether the ACT’s lockdown could be lifted early, he said “the closer we get to zero, the closer we are to coming out of the lockdown”.

“But we need many more days of this sort of high level of testing and low level of new cases,” he said.

Mr Barr acknowledged people had faced “significant delays” at testing sites.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said a number of cars were turned away from testing on Friday, but staff numbers were being boosted across testing sites.

“It was very disappointing to learn that some additional cars had to be sent away quite late last night despite waiting for some very long hours,” she said.

“We apologise for the effect of that and we understand their frustrations.”

Mr Barr said one test was conducted every 45 seconds at Exhibition Park on Friday, which will drop to one every 30 seconds as staffing capacity is expanded.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said Saturday’s new case was a close contact of an existing case, but did not confirm whether it was linked to Gold Creek School in Canberra’s north.

“This case is hot off the press and I want to make sure that everybody who needs to be notified, is notified,” she said.

It comes after a Gold Creek School student tested positive on Friday, with authorities confirming the 14-year-old was infectious while at school from Monday 9 August to Wednesday 11 August.

All students and teachers at the school are being treated as close contacts and Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School students and staff are considered casual contacts, with pop-up testing sites opened at both schools

There are about 4,500 close and casual contacts under investigation and more than 25 exposure sites listed on the ACT government’s website.

The territory’s first local case in 13 months was confirmed on Thursday, a man in his 20s with the Delta variant. 

Federal support has been made available to workers who lose hours and businesses forced to temporarily close during the seven-day lockdown.

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