Australia ACT records 1,039 new COVID-19 cases as positive RAT results become accepted proof of infection in the territory
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Omicron has thrown the country into a seemingly contradictory position: leaders seeking to open up must suddenly consider how to limit its transmission, if at all.This week there was a huge change, as part of an effort to "live with" the virus. The national cabinet's decision to redefine a "close contact" to the bare minimum of someone living with a confirmed COVID-19 case or having spent more than four hours with them in a home, accommodation or care facility will inevitably mean cases — and therefore hospitalisations — will rise.
The ACT has recorded 1,039 new cases of COVID-19.
Twenty-seven people are in hospital as a result of the virus, the highest daily number of the pandemic.
Four people are in intensive care, all of whom require ventilation.
There are now 5,766 active cases of the virus in Canberra.
More than 98.5 per cent of Canberrans aged 12 and older have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 20.3 per cent of Canberrans aged 18 and older have received their booster.
Positive RAT now accepted as confirmed COVID-19 infection
Canberrans who test positive for COVID-19 using a rapid antigen test (RAT) now no longer need to have a follow-up PCR test to confirm their result.
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The ACT government made the official change overnight after
But ACT Health is still developing its online form for Canberrans to register RAT results.
In the meantime, ACT Health is asking people to take note of the date they tested positive so they can complete the form once it becomes available.
A Check In CBR push notification will be sent to let people know when the system is up and running, and Canberrans have been encouraged to ensure their device allows notifications from the app.
Acting Health Minister Chris Steel said accepting rapid antigen tests without the need for a PCR test would save Canberrans time and effort.
Website helping Australians locate Rapid Antigen Test kits
Find a Rat was launched on Monday to help Australians locate Covid Rapid Antigen Tests as stocks fly off the shelves during the country's Omicron outbreak.The website Find a RAT was launched on Monday to help Australians locate a testing kit as stocks dwindle with so many people catching Omicron.
"This change will also reduce the pressure on our laboratories and testing clinics which should help with turnaround times for those who don't currently have access to a RAT or require a PCR test," he said in a statement.
"RATs are becoming more available, and we know that significantly more are arriving later this month."
RATs to remain scarce in Canberra this week
But sourcing a RAT for now remains difficult, with only sporadic deliveries to Canberra pharmacies over the past week.
Simon Blacker from the ACT branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said supplies were unlikely to improve this week, with only limited stock set to arrive.
"Pharmacies across Australia, and no doubt other retailers of rapid antigen tests, are making phone calls every day trying to find a place to get some more and it is just very difficult to have any guarantee when next supplies will arrive," he said.
NSW records 34,994 COVID-19 cases as Premier foreshadows elective surgery suspension
There are 1609 people in NSW hospitals with the virus, of whom 131 are in intensive care units. Thursday's new cases represent a slight decrease on the 35,054 reported on Wednesday. Official cases numbers may increasingly become less representative of state and territory's infection rates after national cabinet on Wednesday agreed to remove the requirement for a PCR test to confirm a positive rapid antigen result. There is currently no way to register a positive rapid antigen test with health authorities, meaning those infections will not be included in daily case numbers.
Mr Blacker urged Canberrans to be patient as pharmacists "did everything they could" to find tests and meet the unprecedented demand.
"There are a lot of people who are quite anxious in the community … and we understand that, and we're doing our very best to help the community, but people are going to need to be patient," he said.
Mr Blacker also reminded concession card holders that free RATs were not yet available to them in the territory.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, with a maximum of 10 to be provided over three months.
"We just need people to understand that pharmacies are waiting on more details for this program," Mr Blacker said.
"There is no ability to access free rapid antigen tests through community pharmacies in the near future until we have more information, and the government makes further announcements."
Postponing elective surgeries 'unlikely to be enough'
The ACT Government is hoping increased use of RATs will eventually ease pressure on testing clinics so those staff can be redeployed to help the health system cope with rising COVID-19 hospitalisations.
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If you’re confused by the CDC's new isolation guidelines, you’re not the only one.Okay, sorry, that’s overly simplistic. Here’s the slightly longer version: You can leave isolation after five days, without a negative test, if you’re not severely sick; you’re not immunocompromised; you’re not in a correctional facility, in a homeless shelter, or on a cruise ship; and you feel that your symptoms are mostly gone, if you had any at all.
With, the ACT government also
Karen Grace from Canberra Health Services said the move should free up more than 50 bed days which would help Calvary Hospital accommodate more COVID-19 patients.
"And if we can get testing under control, that will definitely help us," she said.
With more than 230 healthcare workers in quarantine across the ACT due to COVID-19, Ms Grace said Canberra Health Services was constantly looking for opportunities to redeploy staff to areas in need.
But Matthew Daniel from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation ACT said, that while postponing elective surgeries was a good first move, it was "no panacea" and more needed to be done.
He said redeploying GPs and walk-in centre staff to the pandemic response should be considered, along with calling on the private sector.
"That might be buying beds in the private system and maybe there are staff that work part-time in the private system that might be able to be contracted to the public system short term," he said.
Mr Daniel said healthcare staff were anxious about the level of care patients were receiving.
"The system, of course, has been under stress for some time and it's not possible to stand up the necessary, highly-skilled workforce overnight," he said.
"And it's also on a background of literally hundreds of roster shortfalls across both [Canberra Hospital] and Calvary Public."
Ms Grace acknowledged that health staff were "tired" after two years of dealing with the pandemic.
"However, as we always see, whenever we ask our staff to step up, they do that," she said.
"They are incredible and every day our staff just go that extra mile in order to ensure that the care that is required by the people of Canberra is able to be provided."
Epidemiologist says Covid-19 cases could soon plateau .
Covid-19 infections could soon begin to plateau despite a rising number of cases across Australia, several leading epidemiologists have claimed. University of Melbourne physicist Dr Christopher Billington said NSW was fast approaching the peak of its current outbreak despite the state reporting a record 92,264 cases on Thursday.'Despite how messy the data recently [has been], any reasonable assumptions about what fraction of infections are being captured lead to the same conclusion: that the virus will soon no longer have enough potential hosts remaining to continue to spread with positive growth,' he said.