Page 2604 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 21 September 2022

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Motion to take note of petition

MADAM SPEAKER: Pursuant to standing order 98A, I propose the question:

That the response so lodged be noted.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

COVID-19 pandemic—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) (10.08): I wish to provide what I hope will be my last regular update to the Legislative Assembly on the COVID-19 situation in the ACT and the actions taken by the ACT government to protect the health and wellbeing of Canberrans. I will, of course, continue to update the Assembly if there are significant changes, but I am currently intending to revoke the public health emergency declaration—a declaration that has been in place since March 2020—by 30 September, and we will step down to a COVID-19 management declaration.

I am pleased to say that the ACT is in a strong and stable position as we move towards this new phase of the government’s COVID-19 response. This therefore seems an appropriate time to cease providing a ministerial statement at the beginning of each sitting period—something I am sure many members will be relieved to hear. Since my last update, the COVID-19 situation in the ACT and nationally has improved significantly and we have clearly passed the peak of the second Omicron wave. We have seen daily case numbers consistently declining here in the ACT and across the country.

We know that the pandemic is not over. It is important that Canberrans remain vigilant and continue to be COVID smart, but, as the World Health Organisation has now said, the end of the pandemic is in sight. We are moving closer to treating COVID-19 like other infectious diseases. In the interests of time, I will keep my remarks short today, and table my detailed update along with the Chief Health Officer’s 30th report on the status of the public health emergency.

I want to take this opportunity to again thank Canberrans for how they have rallied together over the past two and a half years. COVID-19 has been one of the biggest challenges our community has ever faced. Canberrans have responded with incredible resilience, compassion and an unshakeable community spirit. I know it has not been easy, but Canberrans have been incredible at doing what was necessary to respond to this global public health challenge. Throughout the pandemic, our community has followed the public health directions, socially distanced, worn masks, gotten tested, gotten vaccinated, quarantined and stayed at home when unwell.

As at 14 September 2022, nearly 1.7 million vaccine doses have been administered in the ACT. Canberra’s testing centres have conducted more than a million PCR tests since the beginning of the Delta outbreak in August 2021. A further 55,000 rapid

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