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Corona Virus Update

UPDATE: 20/03/2020: COVID-19

Thursday 19 March 2020 – Drive through testing for COVID-19 to commence at EPIC from Friday

The ACT Government is making testing for COVID-19 more accessible for Canberrans who meet the testing criteria, with the introduction of a drive through Respiratory Assessment Clinic. The clinic will be located at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) from Friday 20 March.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the drive through clinic would complement the dedicated Respiratory Assessment Clinic already operating from the Weston Creek Walk-in Centre as well as the Canberra Hospital’s Respiratory Assessment Clinic.

“The Respiratory Assessment Clinic at the Weston Creek Walk-in Centre has been experiencing strong demand, so to assist with meeting this demand we will be providing Canberrans with the option for drive through COVID-19 testing at EPIC,” Minister Stephen-Smith said.

“We’re asking people presenting for a COVID-19 test to check prior to attending that they meet the meet the criteria for testing, just as we are with the Respiratory Assessment Clinic at the Weston Creek Walk-in Centre.

“You must also be driving or a passenger of a motor vehicle or motorbike. You will not be able to access the drive through testing service from public transport, or as a pedestrian.

“For northside residents who are not able to drive to EPIC, both the Belconnen and Gungahlin Walk-in Centres can undertake assessment and testing for COVID-19, but Weston Creek remains the recommended location,” Minister Stephen-Smith said.

You should get tested for COVID-19 if:

  • you’ve travelled overseas recently, and you develop symptoms of COVID-19 within 14 days of leaving an overseas country
  • you have been informed by your local Public Health Unit that you have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 and you develop symptoms of the disease within 14 days of your last contact with that person
  • you’re a healthcare worker with direct patient contact, and have fever and acute respiratory symptoms, even if you have not recently travelled or had contact with someone who has COVID-19.

People presenting to the drive through Respiratory Assessment Clinic will first be screened to ensure they meet the criteria for testing before proceeding by vehicle into the Budawang Pavilion for testing. They will not be required to leave their vehicle.

Security and traffic operations will be on site to assist with traffic flow.

The drive-through Respiratory Assessment Clinic will operate seven days per week, from 9:30am to 6:00pm, and be staffed by experienced nursing and administrative staff from Canberra Health Services.

“The rate of testing for COVID-19 in Australia is high. I thank the hardworking and dedicated staff – in the Walk-in Centres, ACT Pathology and across primary healthcare services – who continue to provide exceptional health care for our community.”

The ACT’s public health services have tested more than 1800 people for COVID-19 since 10 February 2020 and in recent days have tested more than 200 people per day.

For ongoing up to date information on COVID-19 please visit https://www.health.act.gov.au/

UPDATE: 12/03/2020: COVID-19 case confirmed in the ACT The ACT Health Directorate has today advised the Canberra community that the first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the ACT. The individual is a male in his 30’s. The ACT Health Directorate is following up close contacts of the confirmed case and is taking appropriate public health action in line with national guidelines. The individual became unwell on Tuesday 10 March and presented to the Weston Creek Walk-in Centre on Wednesday 11 March, with results confirming a positive result on Thursday 12 March. ACT Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman says the community can be reassured that there is no risk to the general community from this case. “As this is the first case of novel coronavirus that has been confirmed in the ACT, we understand that there will be a heightened level of anxiety in the community,” Dr Coleman said. “We want to commend the actions of this individual as he has followed the advice that we have been providing. “The health advice has not changed. The best way people can protect themselves and the community is to practice good hand and general hygiene. “If you have travelled to any country outside of Australia in the last 14 days, or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, and develop respiratory symptoms, you should isolate at home and make an appointment to see your GP immediately. You should call ahead and advise the clinic of your symptoms so precautions can be taken. “People who are concerned and want further information on the virus, can also call the Australian Government’s Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” Symptoms of novel coronavirus include:

  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat or headaches; or
  • difficulty breathing.

For general health information about novel coronavirus, including symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, visit the ACT Heath website: www.health.act.gov.au Quotes attributable to ACT Chief Minister: “I regret to inform Canberrans that we have our first case of COVID-19 in the ACT. “We were expecting that COVID-19 would reach the ACT. Following this confirmation, every state and territory in Australia has at least one confirmed case, and we are expecting more in the coming weeks. “This is not cause for alarm. The processes that have been put in place have, in this instance, worked as expected.” Quotes attributable to ACT Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith: “It is pleasing to know that this person did everything right and our processes worked as they are supposed to. “I can assure Canberrans that our Chief Health Officer, public and private hospitals and primary healthcare sector have been working for weeks to ensure we have plans in place to respond to this situation as it evolves. “Canberrans can help by staying calm, following the advice of our health officials, practicing good general and hand hygiene and staying home from work and public events if they are sick.”

Current status

12 March 2020, current as at 11.40AM AEDT – Australian Eastern Daylight Time (Daylight Saving Time)

  • 1 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the ACT
  • 441 people tested negative so far

 

Latest National Advice

Many countries are now reporting COVID-19 cases and are imposing travel restrictions. Australia has also imposed travel restrictions on some countries. As of 11 March 2020, anyone who has returned to Australia from mainland China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, including transit through these countries, must self-quarantine at home for 14 days from the date they left the country and closely monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. The signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat or headaches; or
  • difficulty breathing

The list of high-risk countries is regularly reviewed and updated. If you have been in close contact with a person who has been confirmed with COVID-19, you must quarantine yourself for 14 days after your last contact with that person. If you think you may have been in casual contact with a person who has been confirmed with COVID-19, read this information here.

What you need to know

The ACT Health Directorate is taking a highly precautionary approach to managing the spread of COVID-19, which is in line with the latest national health advice. As of 11 March 2020, anyone who has returned to Australia from mainland China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, including transit through these countries, must self-quarantine at home for 14 days from the date they left the country and closely monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. The signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat or headaches; or
  • difficulty breathing

The list of high-risk countries is regularly reviewed and updated. If you have been in close contact with a person who has been confirmed with COVID-19, you must quarantine yourself for 14 days after your last contact with that person. If you think you may have been in casual contact with a person who has been confirmed with COVID-19, read this information here. Australians travelling overseas are encouraged to regularly review the Smartraveller website and subscribe for updates. The ACT Health Directorate has well established processes and procedures in place for the management of infectious diseases in the ACT. We are working in partnership with the Australian Government Department of Health and our state and territory counterparts to monitor and respond to the situation.

What we know about COVID-19

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can affect humans and animals. In humans, coronaviruses can cause mild illness, such as the common cold and gastrointestinal infections, as well as more severe illness, such as that caused by SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever and respiratory symptoms, including cough, sore throat and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia with severe acute respiratory distress. Current estimates of the time it takes for symptoms to develop from when a person is infected (i.e. the incubation period) range from 2-14 days. For more information, visit the Department of Health website.

What to do if you think you have COVID-19

If you have travelled to a country considered to pose a risk of COVID-19 transmission, or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, and are concerned that you may have symptoms of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) it is important that you take certain steps to reduce the risk of transmission. Symptoms include fever, a sore throat, cough or shortness of breath. The list of countries considered to pose a risk of COVID-19 transmission is available here. What you should do:

  • Limit your exposure to other people by self-isolating at home.
  • Call your GP and let them know you are worried you may have COVID-19.  Calling your GP before you attend the practice allows them to plan for your visit and take appropriate infection control measures.  Please follow their advice, including wearing a surgical mask if they provide you one.
  • Testing will be arranged by your medical practitioner if they determine it is necessary. It usually takes about 24 – 48 hours for the test results to be returned, but in some cases may take longer.  Further information for someone who is being tested is available here.
  • Your GP will call the Canberra Hospital Emergency Department if you are very unwell.

If you are unable to contact your GP, or if you don’t have one, there are other options available to assist you.

  • The ACT’s walk-in centres are available to assess individuals who are concerned that they have COVID-19.  The preferred walk-in centre for assessment is the Weston Creek walk-in centre [24 Parkinson Street, Weston].  However, if you attend a different walk-in centre you will be seen.

Staff in our walk-in centres are trained to assess and, if required, undertake the correct testing. If you are attending the ACT’s walk-in centres please ensure you use a mask and hand sanitiser available at the front door. If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call triple zero (000). Let them know you are worried you may have COVID-19.

How is COVID-19 spread?

At this point in time, experts believe it’s likely that COVID-19 originated in an animal species, and then spread to humans. COVID-19 can spread from person to person, but it is not yet understood how easily that occurs. There is emerging information that some people may be infectious for a short period before they develop symptoms or have minor symptoms. While this is believed to be very uncommon, it does mean that close contacts of confirmed cases and recent travellers from countries that pose a risk of transmission, may be infectious before they develop obvious symptoms. Other human coronavirus strains can also be spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing or via contaminated hands from a person who is sick with the illness. Focusing on good hygiene practices, especially hand hygiene, will reduce your risk of getting sick and help to prevent the spread of germs.

Health advice for schools and childcare centres

The ACT Health Directorate is taking a highly precautionary approach to managing the spread of COVID-19, which is in line with the latest national health advice. As of 11 March 2020, anyone who has returned to Australia from mainland China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, including transit through these countries, must self-quarantine at home for 14 days from the date they left the country and closely monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. The signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat or headaches; or
  • difficulty breathing

The list of high-risk countries is regularly reviewed and updated. If you have been in close contact with a person who has been confirmed with COVID-19, you must quarantine yourself for 14 days after your last contact with that person. If you think you may have been in casual contact with a person who has been confirmed with COVID-19, read this information here. Australians travelling overseas are encouraged to regularly review the Smartraveller website and subscribe for updates. The ACT Health Directorate has well established processes and procedures in place for the management of infectious diseases in the ACT. We are working in partnership with the Australian Government Department of Health and our state and territory counterparts to monitor and respond to the situation. More information:

Health advice for universities

The ACT Health Directorate is taking a highly precautionary approach to managing the spread of COVID-19, which is in line with the latest national health advice. As of 11 March 2020, anyone who has returned to Australia from mainland China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, including transit through these countries, must self-quarantine at home for 14 days from the date they left the country and closely monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. The signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat or headaches; or
  • difficulty breathing

The list of high-risk countries is regularly reviewed and updated. If you have been in close contact with a person who has been confirmed with COVID-19, you must quarantine yourself for 14 days after your last contact with that person. If you think you may have been in casual contact with a person who has been confirmed with COVID-19, read this information here. More information:

Information for residential aged care facilities and workers

As part of containment measures for COVID-19 in Australia, there are currently restrictions on foreign nationals entering Australia from mainland China, Iran, South Korea and Italy. Anyone returning to Australia from mainland China, Iran and South Korea, including transit through these countries, must self-quarantine at home for 14 days from the date they left the country. The Australian Government has also advised that staff who have close patient contact in hospitals and/or residential/aged care facilities who have returned from any higher risk country should not work in a health care or residential care setting for 14 days since leaving the higher risk country. Residential aged care facilities should be aware of these restrictions and the potential impact on their staff, residents and families. The list of high-risk countries is regularly reviewed and updated. COVID-19 can cause severe acute respiratory illness, but there is a spectrum of disease. Severe disease and mortality are more common among older people and those with comorbidities. For this reason, residents of aged care facilities are identified as a group at increased risk of morbidity and mortality associated with COVID-19. Residential aged care facilities in the ACT should ensure that they have a robust infection control program in place to prevent and control the transmission of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses in facilities. Facilities should have documented procedures in place should a case of COVID-19 be detected among their staff or residents. For further information, please refer to the following information:

Information for travellers

Information for healthcare workers in the ACT

Healthcare workers in ACT public hospitals as well as General Practitioners (GPs) across Canberra are well prepared with precautionary advice to assist them identify any suspected cases of this infection. ACT health professionals will be updated regularly on the case definition for COVID-19, testing and infection control advice. Please refer to the Chief Health Officer Alerts, as well as for resources, to assist you in your clinical practice.

What does it mean to self-isolate?

Being isolated at home means that you need to stay at home for the full period of 14 days. This means you cannot go to:

  • work
  • school
  • public areas

You should not use:

  • public transportation
  • ride share or taxis

Visitors to the home should be discouraged. If you are self-isolating but you need to leave your home for medical attention , you must call the Communicable Disease Control Information line on (02) 5124 9213 during business hours or (02) 9962 4155 after hours. This is so that appropriate and safe travel arrangements can be made for your arrival at the health service. This call must be made if you need to:

  • see your general practitioner;
  • go to an emergency department; or
  • see an alternative health practitioner like an actupuncturist or medicinal herbalist, such as Chinese medicine practitioners.

More information: