COVID-19 update – 23 March 2020

Released 23/03/2020

The ACT Government will be enacting directions on the temporary closure of non-essential activities and businesses to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This reflects the decision made at National Cabinet on non-essential service closures and maintains consistency with the NSW Government approach. It is important that the rules are the same throughout the Canberra region.

Unfortunately too many members of the community are ignoring social distancing measures, and by doing so, are putting the lives of older and vulnerable Canberrans at risk.

Risk reduction is paramount. If we want to slow the spread of COVID-19 we need to implement social distancing at all non-essential places of social gathering.

Despite measures in place to discourage social interaction, there are still too many instances where people are exposing themselves to contracting the virus which is leading to an unsustainable increase in confirmed cases across the country.

This means following the law and keeping at least 1.5 metres away from other people.

Case update in the ACT

The ACT Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman, has announced 13 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the ACT’s total to 32 as at midday today.

The new cases include 5 males and 8 females, aged between 14 and 83 years of age. This includes the student at Lyneham High School identified last night.

This increase is largely related to Canberrans returning home from overseas travel and some close household contacts of previous cases.

ACT Health is contacting their close contacts as a priority and will continue working to ensure they are all informed of their self-quarantine requirements.

There have been 2,576 negative COVID-19 tests in the ACT as at midday on Monday, 23 March.

There are currently three (3) COVID-19 patients being cared for in hospital in Canberra, including one new case. The remainder of the current cases are isolating at home with the support of ACT Health.

ACT Health is continuing to take appropriate public health action in line with national guidelines.

Businesses to close

For the ACT, an important guide to our local decision making is the need for rules to be the same throughout the Canberra region, particularly in relation to the closure of businesses and activities. A business that is allowed to continue operating in the ACT, but not in NSW due to the risk to public health, or vice-versa, would be problematic and could significantly impact on public health.

Therefore, the ACT will continue to work closely with NSW in responding to this public health crisis.

In regards to the shutting down of non-essential services to protect public health, the ACT and NSW will be aligned.

For the ACT, this includes:

  • Pubs & registered clubs
  • Gyms & indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings & places of worship (excluding small weddings and funerals that comply with the 4m2 rules)

Any businesses and places of work that do not fall in this list may continue at this point. However, just because certain industries and businesses can currently continue operation, it does not mean it is business as usual.

Our community must now adapt across all environments, including the workplace, to help slow the spread of the virus. If we don’t, more onerous and restrictive measures will be introduced.

Physical distancing measures and frequent hand washing must be strongly encouraged across all workplaces and business owners must take necessary measures to ensure their employees are closely following these measures.

Any business that can transition to virtual work arrangements should start that process as soon as possible.

ACT schools update

Already today many parents have chosen to keep their children at home.

We are having pupil free days so that schools can prepare to transition to alternative methods of delivering education for our children, however no child will be turned away from ACT public schools tomorrow.

The ACT school system is prepared to transition to alternative teaching models from term 2. Government schools are well placed for this shift, having invested significantly in devices for students and digital capability over recent years.

Our teachers will use this time to design learning plans for students. We ask that you give them some space to do this work, as it will position us to best support your child’s continued education.

That said – we understand that in some cases this will not be possible, and no child will be turned away from our schools.

We will continue to work with school communities as we transition to providing schooling options for school-age children whose parents and carers must be at work directly supporting essential responses to Covid-19. This includes teachers, aged care and health services workers.

Aged care directions

The outbreak of any virus in an aged care facility can have catastrophic consequences. We also know that COVID-19 is a particular health risk for older people in our community.

As of 5pm tonight, 23 March 2020 visits to residential aged care facilities in the ACT will be restricted. Only the following visitors will be allowed in addition to employees, contractors, service providers and emergency responders:

  • care and support visits limited to one visit per day of no longer than two hours made to the resident by one person, or two persons together; and
  • visitors providing end of life support to loved ones.

People who are unwell with a fever, have arrived in Australia from overseas within the last 14 days, have come into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or do not have an up-to-date influenza vaccination (when available) will not be permitted to enter an aged care facility.

Young people under 16 years of age will only be permitted in an aged care facility for compassionate reasons for the purposes of visiting someone at end of life.

General advice

For people who are being asked to self-quarantine, there is comprehensive advice on the ACT Health website (, which we ask you to follow.

We also encourage all Canberrans to continue to stay up to date on developments through the ACT Health website and through the ACT Health social media channels.

People who are concerned and want further information on the virus, can contact the Australian Government’s Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

- Statement ends -

Section: ACT Health Directorate | Media Releases

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