Canberra lockdown: Chief health officer Kerryn Coleman 'comfortable' but cautious as one third of new Covid cases infectious in community

Canberrans have been urged to stay a home and get tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Canberrans have been urged to stay a home and get tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Almost one-third of people infected with COVID-19 are moving about the Canberra community, as contact tracers are yet to determine how 16 people caught the virus, some early in the outbreak.

Household contacts continue to make up the majority of transmission, including more than half of the 26 cases detected to 8pm Friday.

ACT chief health officer Dr Kerryn Coleman was "very comfortable" with the trajectory of the outbreak but cautioned almost one third of people were not in quarantine while infectious.

"We fully expected when we saw the large number of exposure sites that came out of our initial first few cases that we would see numbers rise up, that we would see a plateau and it will take a little while before we would start to see those fall," Dr Coleman said.

"I'm very comfortable with where we're at at the moment, but a note of caution that we still are seeing approximately a third of all new cases that are infectious in the community for some proportion of time."

Seven cases announced on Saturday were infectious in the community with the status of four under investigation.

Dr Coleman said daily case figures would fluctuate with most transmission now occurring within households. Of Saturday's cases, 15 were household contacts.

"It's really important that we all continue to quarantine if required [and] please get tested if identified as a contact at an exposure location, as a close contact of someone who is a case, or if you are experiencing even the mildest of symptoms," she said.

There are 233 active cases after four people recovered.

The source of 16 cases is yet to be discovered by contact tracers, including some from early in the outbreak. Six of those were reported on Saturday.

ACT Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

ACT Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

"The longer ago the transmission occurred, the more difficult it does become for us to identify those sources of transmission," Dr Coleman said.

The key to ending the lockdown, and ensuring Canberra is on top of its outbreak, is to get the number of people infectious in the community to zero.

Testing numbers dropped considerably on Friday to less than 3000 in a 24-hour period, which Dr Coleman said needed to increase.

Family transmission has also pushed the 18-to-44 age group to now make up almost half of all infections while people under 17 account for 38 per cent of cases.

One person has been released from hospital overnight but there remains 10 people in hospital and one woman in intensive care.

Dr Coleman said people hospitalised with the virus were under 50 and just one person had one dose of a vaccine.

Contract tracers are working with 1800 close contacts in quarantine while there are now 2800 casual contacts identified.

An eleventh transmission site has emerged at Ngunnawal's Mirchi Indian Cuisine, which has three cases linked to it.

There are now 21 cases linked to the Bright Bees childcare centre, of which many are household contacts. And 45 cases are now linked to Fiction nightclub, which was the earliest exposure site.

The cluster in the ACT's disability community has grown by one.

Dr Coleman said it was vital anyone being interviewed by contact tracers provide every detail of their movements.

"I'm confident that our contract tracers, when they have the information, when people give it to them or we have it through other means, are able to get on top of the number of contacts," she said.

"There's no way that you will get in trouble for anything from us. We just need to know where you've been."

Condamine Court on Northbourne Avenue is in quarantine. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Condamine Court on Northbourne Avenue is in quarantine. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Residents at Condamine Court, who were sent into quarantine after a positive case attended, have all tested negative.

Dr Coleman said about 70 residents at the public housing complex were tested and a further 50 "surveillance" tests were conducted at other social housing sites including Havelock House in Turner.

All have returned negative results.

NSW passed another grim milestone on Saturday with 1035 new cases. The lockdown of regional NSW had been extended to September 10.

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ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said while the decision to lift Canberra's lockdown would be based primarily on what happens within the border, it would be "influenced somewhat by the epidemiology in the surrounding region".

"The set of public health directions that we will need to have in place must also reflect the situation in Sydney and the risk of the virus re-entering the ACT," Mr Barr said.

He has prepared ACT residents for a tough road ahead.

"The balancing act that we have to perform between now and getting 80 per cent of our population vaccinated is going to be very difficult," Mr Barr said.

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This story One-third of new cases infectious in community, chief health officer cautions first appeared on The Canberra Times.