Statement on 65th National Cabinet Meeting

National Cabinet met again today to further discuss pandemic management. The agenda included the epidemiology of the omicron wave, the vaccine rollout, health system capacity and supply chains.

Pandemic management

The ACT’s public health objective continues to focus on reducing community transmission and disease through strong vaccination programs and public health measures such as mask mandates, density limits in venues and restrictions on high-risk settings. These measures are combining to reduce pressure on our hospitals and protect those most vulnerable.

Winter is coming

We are preparing for winter in the ACT where we are likely to face a further COVID wave combined with the annual flu season. High levels of vaccination across the community will help to protect against this dual threat. The ACT will be focusing our efforts on accelerating our vaccine booster program and completing the 5–11-year-old primary vaccination program. Also we will undertake a significant annual flu vaccination program.

Omicron outbreak epidemiology

Case numbers have stabilised between 800-1,000 each day the ACT. High vaccination rates and the less severe illness associated with Omicron mean the average length of stay for patients hospitalised due to COVID-19 remains around two days. Only a small number of patients require ICU care. Most of these patients have longer stays in hospital and report they are either unvaccinated or have had only one dose of a vaccine.

Health System Capacity

COVID-19 patient numbers having stabilised at around 70 in recent days. This is consistent with Canberra Health Services internal modelling indicating the ACT has likely now reached the peak of this outbreak and should start to see a gradual decrease in hospitalisation in coming weeks. More than half of our COVID-19 positive inpatients are in hospital for a reason other than COVID-19, with many of these asymptomatic or experiencing only mild symptoms. In recent days, COVID-19-specific admissions have stabilised at 3-4 per day. It remains a consistent trend that those patients requiring an ICU admission, and mechanical ventilation, are largely unvaccinated.


The ACT continues to lead the nation on vaccinations – 62% of children aged 5-11 have received a first dose since 10 January, the highest proportion of any jurisdiction in the nation. Nationally, the coverage is around 35%.

43.5% of eligible Canberrans (18+) have already received their third dose of a vaccine, again we are well ahead of the national figure of 27.4%.

Now is the time for Canberrans to get their booster. It is the best defence against the omicron variant by reducing the risk of serious illness as well as reducing transmission and disease. The ACT will be adding 16- and 17-year-old Canberrans to our booster program shortly.

Vaccination appointments for 5-11 are available today at AIS Arena. Booster appointments are available at the AIS Arena clinic as early as next week. Priority booster appointments for 18+ are available today at the Airport vaccination clinic.


15,865 PCR tests have been conducted in the past week. The test positivity rate is approximately one in six having reduced from one in three at the peak of the outbreak. In the last week approximately 10,000 Rapid Antigen Tests have been provided to Canberrans at testing centres. Supplies of Rapid Antigen Tests are starting to arrive in greater numbers but the advice from retailers is that it will still be several weeks before supply exceeds demand.

In the next week over 200,000 RATs will be distributed to teachers, school staff and school children. This will provide a significantly higher level of surveillance (potentially eight times more tests undertaken) and it is highly likely that significantly more asymptomatic COVID cases will be identified as a result.

Schools and Early Childhood Education and Care

The ACT Government has announced our plan for students to return to on-campus learning when Term 1 begins. All school-based staff and students will be provided with two Rapid Antigen Tests per week for the first four weeks of Term 1. Deliveries of kits to ACT schools have now commenced. Tests will be distributed at a school level during week one.

National Cabinet will meet again a fortnight.

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