Students at Five Res Halls Out of Lockdown Due to Negative COVID Tests
By Sharlotte Thou
The last 24 hours have arguably been some of the most turbulent in the ACT’s Covid timeline.
Rumours circulated around campus on the morning of 12 August that the ACT would identify its first locally acquired COVID case in over a year. The rumours were all but confirmed by midday when Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced the territory would enter a 7-day lockdown beginning from 5pm.
Before the day closed three of nine close contacts had tested positive, with the acknowledgement by Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith that the source of the infection was unknown.
By 9pm close contacts were identified at eight ANU residential halls: Burton and Garran, Wright, Ursula (Laurus Wing), John XXII and Wamburun Halls, and Kinloch, Lena Karmel, and Wamburul Lodges.
As of 13 August, those students residing in Johns, Ursula Hall, Kinlock, Lena Karmel and Warrumbul are now out of lockdown, but are subject to stay at home orders. B&G, Wright, Wamburun and – from 13 August – Fenner Hall residents remain in lockdown.
An ANU spokesperson said, “everyone else in these residences is considered a secondary contact”, and all residents were “instructed to self-isolate until they are told otherwise”.
According to ACT Health, a stay at home order is less strict and severe as opposed to quarantine. Those subject to stay at home orders are entitled to leave for essential work, shop for essential needs, travel for a COVID vaccine, and exercise outdoors for one hour per day. In essence, they follow the same rules as all Canberrans under lockdown.
In a hall-wide email sent to residents of Wright, students were informed that the close-contact/s at the hall would have to return a negative COVID test for self-isolation to end. The same fate faces residents at the other three halls.
An ANU spokesperson confirmed those who have been identified as close contacts are currently housed in “self-contained apartments” – as defined by ACT Health. It is understood these rooms must feature a personal bathroom space, with close-contacts not allowed to use any form of communal space. For those living at, say, Wright Hall, which only has communal bathrooms, the relevant close-contact/s have been transferred to an appropriate self-contained apartment.
Burton & Garran residents have been told they can only leave their rooms in the event of an evacuation, to get a COVID test or vaccine or to receive urgent medical care. At Wright Hall, meals are being delivered to rooms.
Communal kitchens at affected residential halls have been closed off for the time being. ANU, in coordination with hall admin and Senior Residents have been delivering food to affected residents.
An anonymous resident at Lena Karmel Lodge – who faced lockdown on the night of 12 August – criticised Unilodge for their “poor management” of the lockdowns. She cited “contradictory information” and miscommunication between residents, staff and SRs. She said there was annoyance amongst peers over the communication of most information through Zoom and “the fact that Lodge didn’t have a contingency plan for this stage of lockdown” .
Students who experience COVID-19 symptoms and/or have been directed by ACT health are encouraged to get tested for the virus, with testing centres at Weston Creek, Exhibition Park (drive through), Brindabella Business Park (drive through) and Narrabundah (ATSI). Vaccines will continue to be available at GPs, NHC branches and at ACT vaccination clinics. University Pharmacy in Kambri is currently offering AstraZeneca vaccines.
If students test positive, they are urged to contact the COVID Response Office immediately on 0458737693. All ANU students are advised to download the ANUOK app, and to read the On&Off Campus weekly newsletters.
Professor Tracy Smart, the public health lead of ANU’s Covid Response Office, told the Canberra Times she was “confident” the lockdown will be “one to two weeks” and applauded the ACT government for “locking down on day one”.
A list of current exposure sites can be found here.
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