26 September 2023

Fears new virus will come to ACT winter

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The reintroduction of pandemic restrictions has been foreshadowed by the ACT Chief Minister as the Territory prepares for a winter flu season likely to see the influenza virus co-circulating with COVID-19.

Following the National Cabinet meeting last week (11 March), Chief Minister, Andrew Barr warned that the ACT may need to tighten health measures in response to a new COVID-19 variant, “particularly if increased transmission leads to pressure on health system capacity”.

“Any new restrictions will be proportionate to the level of risk, with a focus on reducing impacts on our hospital and public health systems and protecting vulnerable Canberrans,” Mr Barr said.

“Should the situation deteriorate, we will move promptly to respond,” he said.

“As we have seen throughout the pandemic, it would be too late to introduce stronger measures if our hospital system is overwhelmed.”

Mr Barr said Canberra Health Services was putting in place workforce plans in response to an expected increase in demand.

The Chief Minister said Government would also support communication strategies to encourage Canberrans to get their influenza vaccination over the coming months.

Commenting on the Omicron BA.2 variant, Mr Barr said the variant was expected to result in a further increase in cases for the Territory.

“Daily case numbers may increase to around 800 per day by the end of this week, and we anticipate the BA.2 strain will become the dominant strain of the virus in the Territory over the coming weeks,” he said.

“Modelling from ACT Health and Canberra Health Services suggest that the new variant is unlikely to result in an increase in hospitalisations, which have stabilised in the past few weeks at around 30-40 patients in hospital with COVID-19, and around 1-3 COVID-19 positive patients in ICU,” Mr Barr said.

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