ACT to mandate COVID vaccines for teachers

·2-min read

Canberra primary school and early childhood staff will be mandated to get COVID-19 vaccines, as the ACT looks set to stop listing low-risk exposure sites.

It comes as Canberra recorded 51 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, almost a single-day record for infections in the territory.

Staff in primary schools, early childhood, out-of-hours care and specialist settings will be required to get their first COVID-19 vaccine by November 1 and be fully vaccinated by November 29.

ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said the mandate was designed to protect children under 12, who are not yet eligible to receive a vaccine.

"We already know that most staff are vaccinated, a survey of school staff indicated it would be in the high 90s, but this gives parents, students and staff extra assurances that we are making schools as safe as possible," Ms Berry said.

"It's important we follow the expert health advice and reduce the risk for those not vaccinated yet."

The mandate will apply to ACT public schools, along with independent and Catholic schools.

With just two days before the ACT's lockdown ends, Canberra registered 51 new cases, 32 linked to known cases.

ACT chief health officer Kerryn Coleman said the jump in case numbers was not unexpected, with 14 of the new cases linked to a cluster at a panel beaters.

From Friday, Dr Coleman said contact tracing measures would change as the territory comes out of lockdown, with low-risk sites no longer being included among the list of exposure locations.

Locations would include takeaway cafes and restaurants, large retail venues with self-service, public transport, outdoor venues, service stations and ATMs.

"Tracing efforts will change and will see a move away from completely tracing the movements of each positive case," Dr Coleman said.

"As we enter the next phase in the ACT, we need to adapt our response to meet the ever-changing challenge with COVID."

Isolation and quarantine measures for positive cases and close contacts will remain the same going forward.

"The easing of social measures present an increased risk in general, and these changes depend on us doing the right thing," Dr Coleman said.

The ACT's vaccination rate has also increased to 98.5 per cent of over-12s having received their first dose, while 73.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the spike in case numbers on Wednesday served as a reminder that new clusters would emerge as lockdown eased, but high vaccination rates would alleviate the risks.

"The ACT is clearly on the path it needs to be on, however, even with high levels of vaccination, there are still high-risk settings where it's important to ensure vaccinations," he said.

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