The ACT has recorded 462 new cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm yesterday, as the ACT government encourages Canberrans to consider working from home in the new year.
The number of new cases is a record for the capital — the highest daily tally of cases since the pandemic began. The ACT’s previous record, reported yesterday, was 253 cases.
There are currently six people in hospital with the virus, but none of those are in intensive care units.
The ACT now has 1,658 active cases of COVID-19, with 4,211 negative tests returned yesterday.
Over 98 per cent of Canberrans aged 12 and over are now fully vaccinated.
The national definition of a close contact was altered yesterday in National Cabinet and is now in line with the ACT’s definition, meaning some places previously considered close contact sites will now be classified as monitor for symptoms.
Quarantine requirements for close contacts, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, have also been shortened to seven days so long as a negative test is returned on day six of their quarantine.
Today, National Cabinet further relaxed testing arrangements by removing the requirement for confirmed cases in isolation to do a rapid antigen test on the sixth day after being exposed.
UPDATES: Read our round-up of the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic
Canberrans encouraged to work from home in January
Yesterday, the ACT government encouraged Canberrans to work from home, where possible, in January.
Many ACT government employees are yet to be required to return to the office, though that is not the case for many federal public servants.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he hoped private industry would allow employees to work from home, where possible, for the coming month.
“While many employees will need to return to the workplace to meet business needs or for their own wellbeing, working from home where possible will help to reduce transmission while we continue to learn more about the impact of Omicron – not just in the ACT but across Australia,” he said.
Mr Barr said the ACT had 350,000 booster doses and primary doses for children aged five to 11 to deliver over the next few months.
Changes to quarantine requirements for positive cases and testing for close contacts
Yesterday, the national definition of close contacts was updated, bringing other jurisdictions into line with what was already in place in the ACT, New South Wales and Victoria.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said while yesterday’s national change to the definition of a close contact was consistent with ACT rules, there had been changes to quarantine requirements for both unvaccinated close contacts and for positive COVID-19 cases.
From today, all close contacts, including unvaccinated people, who receive a negative result from their day-six test, can leave quarantine from day seven.
These close contacts are still being encouraged to stay out of high-risk settings, including hospitals and aged care facilities, for a further seven days.
Ms Stephen-Smith said this change would most likely affect families with young children, who are currently unable to be vaccinated.
On testing of close contacts, people who are asymptomatic can now also have a rapid antigen test on day one and six, but people who have symptoms still need to have a PCR test on those days.
Confirmed cases now only need to isolate for seven days from their positive test.
Ms Stephen-Smith said more information was available on the ACT’s COVID-19 website.
Canberrans preparing for positive cases in the home
Infectious diseases expert Ian Marr said as more Canberrans became infected with COVID-19, it was important to be prepared with the essentials that might be required.
Dr Marr said his COVID Care at Home team was informed about positive cases through ACT Health and from there contacted confirmed cases to talk them through what could happen in the coming days.
He said in the first week, positive Omicron COVID-19 cases often experienced similar symptoms to cases with the Delta variant, including a sore throat, some fevers or a loss of taste.