Backdated results arriving into the ACT Health system from an unnamed pathology provider caused hundreds of mobile phone messages to anxious people who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the ACT.
The messaging glitch which occurred last week went out to hundreds of people, some of them multiple times, after they had tested positive causing anxiety and distress among those who had already self-isolated but were now concerned whether they had been re-infected.
ACT Health could not explain how the backdated positive results, some of them going back 23 days or more and triggered long after the recipients had emerged from self-isolation, were not recognised as outdated and discarded by its automated messaging system.
The long-running advice on testing results from ACT Health has been that anyone who has not received their result via text message within two days should only then contact the testing site, although private pathology labs can turn results around quicker.
Canberra residents have also been encouraged to continue to use the CBR Check-in app, even though its effectiveness now appears to be much-diminished with so much infection now in the community.
Exposure site updates within the ACT quietly disappeared from the government's COVID-19 website at Christmas time as the focus of contact tracing has now shifted toward tracking those who have been "high risk sites" such as aged care facilities and hospitals.
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"Our [contact tracing] teams are focused on whether cases have visited any high-risk sites and if they have come into contact with people at higher risk of serious illness," ACT Health confirmed.
They said contact tracers now "need to focus on the key information that will protect our most vulnerable community members and settings".
As to the effectiveness of using the check-in app, ACT Health says the tool is now more useful to people who have tested positive so they can warn those who they previously came into contact with, rather than as a means of collating exposure sites.
"People are still encouraged to use it [the Check-in app] to assist with their own tracking of movement which is helpful for if they become a confirmed case to notify those around them in their social and workplace settings," the spokesperson said.
This shifted approach falls in line with that recently adopted by national cabinet and reiterated by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday when he said that the contact regime of the past was connected to the Delta strain of COVID-19, not the now more dominant Omicron variant.
"The close contact rule, remember, is that you're a close contact if you have someone in your own accommodation setting that has the virus. That's when you're a close contact," the Prime Minister said on Thursday.
"You're not a close contact because you happened to be here today and one of you might have COVID.
"You're not a close contact if you've gone to a bar or to a restaurant or another venue and there happened to be a case there.
"This notion of exposure sites, which means you're a close contact, that's Delta. That's in the past."
People travelling to and from COVID-19 testing clinics have been advised to do so by private transport and not to stop at any workplaces, cafes, shops or restaurants "unless there is an emergency", says ACT Health.
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