The ACT is walking back on an elimination approach to COVID-19 as Canberra confirms 15 more cases five weeks into a lockdown of the national capital.
Aid for businesses and vulnerable residents, such as asylum seekers and the homeless, is being extended, with ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr also flagging extended mental health support.
Mr Barr was confident the ACT was containing the virus but would not make the “bold prediction” cases would return to zero by October 15.
That is the date Canberra’s lockdown is scheduled to end, after which the ACT will look at greater freedoms for businesses and residents.
Restrictions have had minor tweaks, including letting households of any size or groups of up to five people meet and play sport outdoors.
But the path out of lockdown is contingent on the number of daily cases that can be linked, are in quarantine throughout their infectious period, the situation in NSW, and how key national vaccination thresholds are faring.
The ACT government has been walking back from an elimination approach as its vaccination rates increase.
The aim is to get cases infectious in the community as close to zero as possible.
“We have in place policy settings that are keeping our case numbers very low. But there are still new cases, and new cases infectious in the community,” Mr Barr said on Thursday.
“We are doing our very best to keep case numbers as low as possible and we have the policy settings in place to stop an outrageous exponential increase that would rip through the unvaccinated in our community.”
A little over half of residents aged 12 and older are double-dosed, and 75 per cent are partially vaccinated.
A little more than 97 per cent of residential aged care workers are partially or fully vaccinated a day out from the national deadline for them to have received at least one dose.
Canberra’s active case count is 241 as daily infections hover between the teens and 20s.
Of the 15 latest cases, 11 are linked and five had been in quarantine the whole time while infectious.
There are nine patients in hospital, including one in intensive care requiring ventilation.
The health system anticipates it could need to take on coronavirus patients from regional NSW should Sydney’s hospitals become overwhelmed.