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Racist abuse on the rise in ACT due to COVID-19

An update to this story was issued on 24 April.

Uncertainty, fear and stress surrounding COVID-19 has led to a number of instances of racist abuse and other forms of discrimination within the Canberra region.

ACT Minister for Justice and Mental Health, Shane Rattenbury, told a press conference today he has had feedback from the ACT Human Rights Commission that they are seeing an increased number of reports of racist abuse in Canberra.

“These have been directed at retail workers, at healthcare workers, even at people just in their apartment buildings,” he said.

“We want to be really clear to those members of our community who come from overseas that you are welcome in this city, and we’d like to be really clear to other Canberrans to say there is no place for racist taunts, for blaming, for these kind of public attacks.”

Without exact figures detailing the increase of racist abuse incidents, Mr Rattenbury said the ACT Human Rights Commission has seen an abnormally high number of complaints of late.

“We have even seen it in the healthcare setting, and I find that the most extraordinary, where you’ve got a healthcare worker who may come from an Asian background or similar actually having racist abuse directed their way, despite putting themselves at the frontline to try and help other people.

“I find that incredibly perverse,” Mr Rattenbury said.

Confirmed cases update

There have been no new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the ACT in the past 24 hours. The ACT’s total number of confirmed cases remains at 104.

A total of 93 cases have recovered from COVID-19 and have been released from self-isolation.

There is currently one COVID-19 patient in the Canberra Hospital. The remainder are isolating at home with ACT Health support.

The ACT has recorded three deaths.

The number of negative tests in the ACT is now 7,263.

As at 6am on 23 April, there were 6,654 confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide. There have been seven new cases since 6am yesterday.

Of the 6,654 confirmed cases in Australia, 74 have died and 5,012 have been reported as recovered from COVID-19.

More than 458,000 tests have been conducted across Australia.

Expanded testing in the ACT

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said testing criteria had been expanded for the next two weeks in Canberra.

“From tomorrow (24 April), if you present to our testing services with COVID-19 symptoms, even if you haven’t travelled overseas recently or been a close contact of a confirmed case, you will be tested,” Dr Coleman said.

“The ACT continues to be in an excellent position and we now have capacity to test people from groups that are less likely to have come into contact with COVID-19.”

COVID-19 symptoms include fever of 38 degrees Celsius or more (or a recent history of fever such as chills or night sweats), or a respiratory infection (such as shortness of breath, sore throat, or cough).

Dr Coleman said spreading the net for testing is a “great way” for both ACT Health and the community to get a really good idea that there are no undetected cases of COVID-19 in the community prior to some restrictions being lifted.

“I can’t promise you that there are absolutely no undiagnosed cases in the ACT, but we have for many, many weeks now been testing a whole array of higher risk groups of people who have symptoms of COVID, who have all come back negative,” she said.

More information on COVID-19 testing can be found at COVID19.act.gov.au

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