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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

‘You can come back tomorrow’: ACT testing sites under the pump

ACT Health detected no new cases of COVID-19 in the ACT after four times the average number of tests were completed in Canberra yesterday, Monday 29 March.  

Approximately 1,700 noses were swabbed on Monday, compared to an average of 400 daily over the past few weeks, according to ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith.

Ms Stephen-Smith said clinics were trying to “staff up” as much as possible in the wake of an outbreak of the UK strain in Greater Brisbane, and she was aware some people spent hours waiting in line for their compulsory test in the ACT.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith thanked the community for their patience while waiting for COVID-19 tests yesterday. Image: Kerrie Brewer.

“We always have plans in place to stand up extra testing capacity; the challenge comes when we have thousands of people all wanting to be tested all at once, while at the same time we have actually quite a lot of pressure on our hospital as well,” she said.

Ms Stephen-Smith said she expected fewer returning travellers from Brisbane in coming days.

“Hopefully today will be the last day of really strong demand and those long waits.”

She apologised for the inconvenience and offered an alternative to those in quarantine still trying to get a test.

“If you can come back tomorrow to get tested, that would be fine.

“Because you’re in quarantine, you’re not presenting any risk of transmission to the wider community.”

New COVID-19 exposure sites identified interstate

Today, Queensland Health announced new exposure sites in Greater Brisbane, Gladstone, Gin Gin, Miriam Vale and Byron Bay (NSW).

In response, ACT Health advised anyone in the ACT who had recently visited these areas to visit the Queensland Health website and NSW Health website for the locations, dates and times listed, and to follow the testing instructions. 

“These locations are updated regularly so keep checking back to stay up to date with the latest information,” ACT Health advised.

Although she could not provide the exact number of people in self-quarantine, Ms Stephen-Smith said approximately 2,500 people had filled out a self-declaration form indicating they had returned from a COVID-affected area.

But not all those people were required to be in quarantine, if they had received a negative test result or if it had been more than 14 days since they visited the area.

Ms Stephen-Smith said until the vaccination rollout was complete, community transmission of COVID-19 would be a risk.

“These clusters and outbreaks do seem to happen just as we get to a point where we have zero community transmission across the whole of Australia, where we’re all looking forward to a holiday period,” she said.

“But we have always said that we expected we would see new cases and new outbreaks, potential new clusters, while ever we have people returning from overseas.”

She said hotel quarantine programs across the country were strong.

“There is also always some slight risk associated with those programs.”

Vaccination numbers

Allaying concerns the spike in testing might affect the vaccination rollout, Ms Stephen-Smith said she would not consider diverting resources from vaccination to testing.

Over 10,000 COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered at the COVID-19 Surge Centre Vaccination Clinic.

This number does not include tests administered in general practices, or in disability or aged care.

Anyone who has been in any of the close contact, casual contact and low risk locations in Queensland and NSW should contact ACT Health on (02) 6207 7244 between 8am – 8pm, seven days a week including the Easter long weekend.

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