Page 370 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 22 March 2022
The BA.2 Omicron subvariant is now known to have been circulating across the country since late January 2022. It has become the dominant variant in New South Wales over the last month and now also appears to be the dominant variant here in the ACT.
Evidence from across the world indicates that the BA.2 subvariant is even more transmissible than the original BA.1 Omicron variant. However, the evidence collected so far also suggests that the new variant presents similar risks of causing severe illness. Importantly, BA.2 has been made a research priority around the world and there is no evidence of significantly reduced vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease.
With high rates of vaccination across the country, Australia remains in a good position as we continue to transition to COVID-normal. The ACT continues to work closely with the commonwealth and other jurisdictions as the COVID-19 situation evolves, to ensure our restrictions are proportionate and effective in responding to the level of risk in the community.
As at 8 pm on 20 March, there had been a total of 67,243 cases of COVID-19 recorded in the ACT. There were 6,014 active cases, with 39 COVID-19 patients in hospital, of whom four were in intensive care, with none requiring ventilation. Sadly, 38 people have died with COVID-19 in the ACT since the start of the pandemic. The ACT government extends its sincere condolences to their families and loved ones.
We are seeing transmission in our schools and in early childhood education and care settings. This is not unexpected given that these are environments where young people and educators are spending many hours together. I know this is a cause of significant anxiety for some parents. However, while children under the age of 12 are all either unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, rates of severe illness and hospitalisation remain rare in this age group.
We have also seen a significant cluster of cases in the Australian National University’s residential student accommodation. ACT Health worked closely with the ANU to assist in managing this cluster.
Importantly, overall hospitalisation rates are currently within the capacity of our hospitals. The vaccines are doing their job, interrupting chains of transmission and reducing rates of severe illness. With case numbers increasing over the last week, the ACT government is carefully monitoring the situation to ensure our response continues to remain proportionate.
The public health team within ACT Health has also commenced planning preparations for winter to ensure that our response to the pandemic can adapt to various scenarios in a manner that is flexible, scalable and agile. This planning includes considerations of testing and vaccination needs, as well as equipment requirements. We will continue to update the Assembly and the community as this work progresses.