Don’t be complacent ACT on covid cases: Health Minister

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ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith talks to nurse Maddy Williams, who was the first person in Canberra to take the Pfizer vaccination. Picture: Andrew Mathieson

THE ACT government are considering contingency plans should concerns that an unexpected coronavirus outbreak in Brisbane could affect vulnerable Canberrans.

Only 9746 out of about 100,000 residents that fall under phase 1b of the Commonwealth vaccination plan that extends to people over 70 years of age, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, those carrying underlying health issues and essential health workers have been inoculated in the first week of the rollout.

“We haven’t got all of our vulnerable population protected at this point in time,” Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said.

The figure falls below initial expectations as general practitioners that have opened their doors struggle to meet the high demands, after reports that only regular patients of a medical clinic are guaranteed an appointment and the rest are left at the back of queues.

Some eligible recipients say they have been initially left frustrated caught between phoning their nearby clinics and being directed back to government websites, and vice versa.

The delays have occurred in the midst of four new cases in Greater Brisbane that could spread into the ACT after two close contacts and another 11 casual contacts were found.

While Ms Stephen-Smith would not reveal what the government can do free up GPs that are swamped, she has encouraged Canberrans to return to a state of vigilance.

“It is not a time to throw caution to the wind and say our job is done with vaccination – that is absolutely not the case,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“We still all have a job to do to make sure we’re protecting the most vulnerable people in our community, but also protecting our economy.

“If we did start to see a cluster or potential for community transmission in the ACT, that would have an impact on restrictions that are in place and our Chief Health Officer would have to consider that.”

ACT have had just 123 locally-acquired COVID-19 cases for all but several months.

The most recent persons to carry the virus were five cases acquired on repatriation flight from Singapore that arrived in Canberra on March 2.

Ms Stephen-Smith said she understands the meek frustrations of Canberra residents over the past 12 months since the first outbreak occurred.

“I think it is natural for people to get tired, to be a bit over it,” she said.

“It does seem to happen right at the point when we have no community transmission right across Australia and everyone is breathing a sigh of relief when we are going into a holiday period and then something happen.

“So everyone is tired as a result of that, and everyone is rolling their eyes and saying, ‘not again’, but it is really important than we are not complacent.”

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