News Politics Australian Politics Federal parliament to sit, despite ACT outbreak

Federal parliament to sit, despite ACT outbreak

canberra parliament
Parliament will return next week, despite the growing COVID outbreak in the national capital.
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Federal parliament will return next week despite Canberra’s ongoing coronavirus outbreak and lockdown.

The ACT’s outbreak has grown to 67, with 22 new cases on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office has confirmed parliament will sit for two weeks starting from Monday.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr had urged Mr Morrison to reconsider, but flagged the government was working out how to go ahead safely.

“I understand it would be absolutely limited numbers,” Mr Barr said on Wednesday.

“Most MPs would be dialling in remotely and … there would be almost no one within Parliament House.”

Parliament is considered an essential workplace and allowed to remain open under ACT health orders, albeit with tight restrictions.

Mr Barr does not believe any parliamentarians are secondary contacts of Labor senator Katy Gallagher.

Senator Gallagher’s 14-year-old daughter has contracted the virus and the family is quarantining.

The chair of the parliamentary committee looking at Australia’s COVID-19 response said the country had let down its young people.

“I look at Evie lying in her bed trying to fight this virus and I just can’t stop the feeling that we’ve let her down,” an angry Senator Gallagher said.

“My son’s in the next room and I’m desperately hoping he’s not going to catch it.”

All of Canberra’s latest cases are linked to existing infections. Only four of the ACT’s total cases remain under investigation.

More than 8400 tests were conducted on Tuesday, taking testing numbers to almost 25,000 since Canberra’s lockdown began last Thursday.

The number of people in quarantine has grown to 12,500 as the ACT’s exposure sites balloon.

New cases have been identified across schools including Harrison School, St Thomas Aquinas Primary School and the University of Canberra Senior Secondary College Lake Ginninderra.

Meanwhile, 15 cases are linked to Lyneham High School. Infections have also been recorded at other campuses including the Gold Creek School.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith noted an increase in the number of young people wanting to get the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Of Canberrans aged 16 and older, one-third are fully vaccinated and 57 per cent have received one dose.

Pharmacies dolled out about 700 AstraZeneca jabs on Tuesday.

More than 80 GPs across the territory have been supplied with over 30,000 AstraZeneca doses.

A smaller number of GPs are delivering Pfizer vaccines.

The federal government is giving ACT pharmacies and GPs an additional 10,300 doses this week.

Mr Barr flagged NSW’s spiralling outbreak, reaching a new daily high of 633 infections, could affect Canberra’s restrictions.

“At this point in our outbreak, it is not appropriate to be easing restrictions unless we want to find ourselves in the position NSW is in and still be having these questions and these press conferences in two months’ time,” he said.

The capital’s lockdown is set to expire on September 2.