Page 369 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 22 March 2022

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the return to face-to-face learning much more difficult and stressful for staff and students alike.

They were also not made available for those who are undertaking home-schooling. The COVID committee only last year recommended that “future restrictions about gathering for home-educated children are consistent with the restrictions placed on school-educated children”. While the distribution of RATs is not the same as a restriction on gathering, giving an equitable distribution of RATs to community schools and home-educated children to allow gathering is indicative of the spirit of that recommendation.

While RATs are now more readily available, I have tabled this petition with the hope that future policies will include other forms of education, such as community language schools and home-educated students.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

COVID-19 pandemic response—update

Ministerial statement

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (10.12): I rise to update the Assembly on the government’s response to the evolving COVID-19 situation in the ACT and across Australia, and the steps we have taken to keep Canberrans safe.

In the period since my last update in February, case numbers and rates of hospitalisation had largely stabilised here in the ACT and across the country. However, in more recent weeks we have seen an uptick in cases and hospitalisations in the ACT and at a national level. This change reflects the emergence of a new subvariant of the Omicron strain, and we are monitoring the situation very closely. All jurisdictions continue to move towards “COVID-normal”, with minimal restrictions and public health social measures.

In the last month we have observed the two-year anniversary of the ACT Public Health Emergency Declaration and the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 vaccine administered in the ACT. One of the more recent innovations in our response, the COVID-19 clinic at the surge centre in Garran, has treated its 800th patient.

For two years, Canberrans have worked together to slow the spread of this virus—two years of Canberrans social distancing and practising other COVID-safe measures, wearing masks in certain settings, and following the public health directions, and one year of Canberrans eagerly coming forward to get vaccinated. This was all done to protect loved ones and the most vulnerable members of our community.

As a community, Canberrans have displayed remarkable resilience, resolve and compassion. It has been a very challenging two years, but Canberrans’ hard work has paid off, putting us in a strong position as we move to living with COVID and being COVID-smart.

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