Released 16/03/2020 - Joint media release
The ACT Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith has declared a Public Health Emergency in response to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation across Australia.
A declaration of a Public Health Emergency allows the Chief Health Officer to take any action, or give any direction, considered to be necessary to protect Canberrans and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the ACT.
This is the first time a Public Health Emergency has been declared in the ACT. It is one of the best signals we can provide to the community to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
While there are only two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the ACT, this decision has been made now to ensure consistency across all states and territories and to enable our Chief Health Offer to take required actions to keep Canberrans safe.
Following the Commonwealth Government’s announcement yesterday that all people arriving in Australia are required to self-isolate for 14 days, we are asking the Canberrans to take this instruction seriously.
This is a measure that has been put in place to slow down the spread of this rapidly evolving disease.
The National Cabinet, which met on Friday and again yesterday, also endorsed the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) to further introduce social distancing measures. This includes the requirement that non-essential, organised public gatherings of more than 500 people should not occur.
At this early stage, there is no requirement for schools to close. This is based on health advice and is consistent with other states and territories. To ensure our schools remain as safe as possible the ACT Government recommends that schools:
- Suspend sports carnivals and large concerts
- Consider postponing school fetes and other events
- Begin postponing excursions from today, with excursions planned for early in the week considered case by case
Public schools are also planning for digital delivery of lessons, if it becomes required, using the ACT’s nation leading investment in technology enabled learning and chrome books.
ACT Health and ACT Education will continue to work together to ensure decisions made are based on the most up to date health advice available.
We are asking for the community’s support to ensure these measures are followed and that we are all doing the right thing to protect one another.
The ACT Cabinet met this morning to further discuss the Government’s response to COVID-19, including any service changes as a result of the declaration of a Public Health Emergency in the ACT.
Decisions will be made by the ACT Government in a calm and sensible manner, guided by the expert advice of health professionals. The national response to this public health emergency is not an easy process. What we are seeking is a balance between slowing the spread to so we can treat those that will need critical health support, and a complete destruction of our economy.
Each decision we will make in the coming months will be difficult, and it will have consequences on the way of life we have come to expect. The decisions we make in response to COVID-19 must be done knowing that we will be managing this for a significant period of time.
Ensuring we effectively respond to the risk posed by a rapid spread of COVID-19 is our top priority. We will continue to work with the state and territories, support and resource our health services and respond appropriately to protect our community.
- Statement ends -