Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith... "We know that there is a potential for these situations to escalate very quickly."

FIVE travellers on flights from South Australia to the ACT last night (November 16) were tested for COVID-19 at Canberra Airport after presenting with possible coronavirus symptoms, says Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith. 

However, Minister Stephen-Smith says the five people tested were not deemed to be of significant risk of being exposed to the virus, and did not go to any of the identified locations where positive covid cases had been in SA. They are now in isolation. 

The five tested were screened after two flights came in last night, with one arriving at about 6pm and another at about 6.15pm, collectively bringing in about 250 people, Ms Stephen-Smith says. 

A plane from SA also flew in this morning, at about 8am, bringing in about "75-odd" people, she says. No one on this flight needed to be tested.

Canberra health officials will continue doing health screenings at the airport, with a testing pop-up clinic there, too, after SA Health reported 18 cases associated with a cluster in the state, which includes one new case confirmed today.

"All [travellers flying in to Canberra from SA] were met by health protection staff who went through a screening questionnaire for those people to identify if they had any symptoms of COVID-19 or if they’d been in any of the places that were potentially a risk in terms of transmission of the coronavirus," Ms Stephen-Smith says. 

There will be another flight arriving at lunchtime today.

Following the cases in SA, Minister Stephen-Smith is advising Canberrans to reschedule any non-essential travel to the state. 

“We know, and we saw in Victoria, how quickly these situations can potentially escalate. While we are confident SA is responding appropriately in terms of contact tracing and people going into quarantine and identifying potential hot spots, we know that there is a potential for these situations to escalate very quickly," she says. 

But, she isn't advising people currently in SA, to come back to Canberra.

“I wouldn’t say that people who are currently in SA should necessarily disrupt their travel plans at this point in time but certainly follow the advice of South Australian health authorities very closely, avoid any of those places where there’s been cases," she says. 

“If you do want to come back, be very conscious that you will have to undergo a health screening at the airport but also do be conscious that the situation may change and it may be that NSW and the ACT will decide to impose a quarantine requirement at some point but at this point it’s just watch all of the health advice really closely in the jurisdiction you’re in." 

When asked if the ACT will consider a hard border closure to people coming in from SA, Ms Stephen-Smith says: “It is really difficult for the ACT to impose a hard border if NSW doesn’t do that. What we really don’t want is to have people flying into Sydney and then driving to Canberra and we don’t know they’re here. We would actually rather, if people are coming back home to the ACT, to fly into the ACT and we can do that health screening for them."

She says the ACT will continue to monitor the situation. 

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