Experts suggest more than half of Canberrans may have already had COVID ahead of changes to close-contact isolation rules

Jasper Lindell
Lucy Bladen
By Jasper Lindell, and Lucy Bladen
April 20 2022 - 7:30pm
More than half of COVID infections in Canberra may be missed by testing, experts suggest. Picture: Keegan Carroll

About half of Canberrans may have been infected with COVID-19, with experts suggesting official case numbers now significantly downplay the true extent of the virus's spread.

The real numbers associated with the COVID-19 outbreak in Canberra could be more than 200,000 cases in a city of 431,000 residents, as the testing and quarantine regime shifts to accept a greater risk of transmission.

The ACT is expected to make an announcement on Thursday about changes to household contact isolation requirements, with the territory likely to be brought into line with NSW and Victoria.

Health authorities in the territory were yesterday understood to still be working on when the change would come into effect in the ACT.

A large number of COVID-19 infections in the ACT means natural immunity will combine with vaccination coverage to help lessen the impact of potentially infectious people being allowed into the community.

Associate Professor James Trauer, an epidemiological modelling expert at Monash University, said official COVID-19 case numbers were probably between two and five times smaller than the number of actual infections.

Dr Trauer said Australia did not yet have the systems in place to properly estimate the virus's attack rate - the percentage of people infected in a given population.

"I think a substantial proportion of the population has likely been infected. It's probably two to fivefold underestimated depending on where you're looking at, but it's a bit of a guess really," he said.

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Jasper Lindell

Jasper Lindell

Assembly Reporter

Jasper Lindell joined the Times in 2018. He is a Legislative Assembly reporter, covering ACT politics and government. He also writes about development, heritage, local history, literature and the arts, as well as contributing to the Times' Panorama magazine on Saturdays. He was previously a Sunday Canberra Times reporter.

Lucy Bladen

Lucy Bladen

Reporter Canberra Times

Lucy Bladen has been a journalist at The Canberra Times since 2019. She is an ACT politics and health reporter. Email: l.bladen@canberratimes.com.au