A birthday of sorts: one year COVID-free in the ACT

Lottie Twyford 9 July 2021 59
Sign warning Canberrans about new mask requirements

A year without COVID-19 in the ACT has not meant there haven’t been concerns. Photo: Region Media.

It might be hard to believe, but 10 July 2021 marks exactly 365 days since the ACT recorded its last locally acquired case of COVID-19.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said she cannot believe the Territory is set to mark this milestone and attributes the ACT’s success to preparation and prevention.

In 365 days a lot has happened, from unsteady vaccination roll-outs, mask mandates, fines for interstate visitors, interstate outbreaks and lockdowns, travel restrictions and requirements for ACT residents.

Throughout it all, COVID-19 has not been far away.

With the current Sydney outbreak continuing to be of concern, Dr Coleman urged Canberrans to remember that the threat of an outbreak is ever-present. At one point in the last few weeks, more than 10,000 Canberrans were subject to stay-at-home orders.

A year with no locally acquired cases doesn’t mean there haven’t been COVID-positives in the ACT. The most recent was in April: a returned diplomat in his 50s tested positive while in quarantine. It also sent three close contacts into isolation.

Other cases in March were in hotel quarantine when they tested positive, most of which had flown into Canberra on the government-facilitated flight from Singapore. The ACT then canned repatriation flights in April 2021, with Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith citing significant costs and operational difficulties for the ACT compared to larger jurisdictions.

Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith cited high costs as the reason for canning repatriation flights to the ACT. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

And while Canberrans might have lived without COVID-19 outbreaks, the effects of interstate lockdowns and outbreaks are undeniable.

Booking a holiday became something of a lottery – nobody ever sure if they would have to return and quarantine or cancel plans at the last minute.

Over Christmas, travel plans were left in disarray because of Sydney’s Northern Beaches outbreak, and you’d be hard-pressed to find parents who enjoyed the recent school holidays with so many holiday programs cancelled at the last minute.

Throughout the year, there have been various periods in which travel restrictions have been imposed for ACT residents or vice versa between Western Australia (April 2021, February 2021 and October 2020), Victoria (May 2021, February 2021, November 2020) and NSW (June 2021, December 2020 to January 2021), Queensland (March 2021, January 2021), South Australia (November 2020) and Tasmania (October 2020).

According to Dr Coleman, outbreaks in NSW have put the ACT on the highest alert.

“When the Northern Beaches cluster exploded earlier in the year, that was particularly concerning, but currently, with the delta variant that is about 50 per cent more transmissible, if there is a case in the ACT, there will certainly be seeding,” she said.

In August 2020, a Victorian driver attempted to enter the ACT, leading to a high-speed chase with police, while during the same month, confusion over border rules left ACT residents stranded at the border. Over the summer, there were various instances of police setting up checkpoints on the ACT border.

The South Coast ‘outbreak’ between August and September last year put Canberrans on edge, but again, the Territory escaped unscathed.

Also in July 2020, the first ACT restaurant was fined for breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

READ ALSO: Face mask fashion: Canberrans embrace personal COVID-19 styles

Canberrans have also become used to, over the last 12 months, ‘checking in’ via an app.

In March 2021, Check in CBR was made mandatory for many businesses – largely hospitality ones. It was recently expanded to include all retail businesses no matter how long a customer might plan to spend in the store, as well as on public transport and rideshare vehicles – a change that will become mandatory from midday on 15 July.

Recently, ACT residents dealt with their first few weeks of mandatory and enforceable mask-wearing. Despite face masks no longer being mandatory (as of midnight last night), the ACT Government continues to encourage their use.

READ ALSO: Mask mandate revoked, Barr canvasses workplace rollout for public service, defence, unis

Recently, of course, there were fears that the virus had breached the ACT’s borders. It turned out to be a false-positive.

Developing a vaccine was still a race last July. Now, they are available at GPs and mass vaccination hubs, although changing health advice and a lack of adequate supply has continued to impede the progress of the rollout. Currently, around 155,000 vaccinations have been administered.

Continue to monitor ACT Health COVID-19 for the latest details.

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59 Responses to A birthday of sorts: one year COVID-free in the ACT
Monica Tiffen Monica Tiffen 8:33 pm 13 Jul 21

To be really careful, stay at home, and wear a mask if going out! And say lot's of prayers!

Matt Reeves Matt Reeves 6:16 pm 10 Jul 21

Sydney is going to 💩 and clearly people won't follow rules, unfortunately we will get it here within the week, unless they put in boarder controls now

Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 4:53 pm 10 Jul 21

The gov is over reaching its mandate / power and needs to be removed at the next election. We all so need a public royal commission in to the governments response to the CCP-VIRUS at all levels of government.

Christopher Cuba Rabanal Christopher Cuba Rabanal 4:39 pm 10 Jul 21

We love staying home and watching Netflix ❤️❤️❤️

I’m doing it right now and thanks Uber eats for tonight dinner ❤️😋❤️

    Scott Lang Scott Lang 10:49 am 12 Jul 21

    Well done Christopher for following the guidelines 🙂. I also hope you tipped the Uber Eats driver for taking the risks so that you don’t have to.

Sher Bee Sher Bee 3:29 pm 10 Jul 21

We do what is right, we are responsible, sensible and learn from our mistakes. We are at the top of the vaccinations list. Mostly we respect our medical experts, we believe in science. We ignore wackos. It’s definitely scary being so close to Sydney, fingers crossed we stay safe.

Garry Harbulot Garry Harbulot 2:58 pm 10 Jul 21

Obviously Covid knows how boring ACT is


Sue Ellen Sue Ellen 2:43 pm 10 Jul 21

I thought we hadn't had any locally acquired cases.

Spud Murphy Spud Murphy 2:18 pm 10 Jul 21

We are very lucky

Jen Jen Jen Jen 1:16 pm 10 Jul 21

Because unlike Sydney where the population will not follow the rules (hence why so many of today’s cases were infectious in the community) Canberrans follow them for the greater good and in fact, as can be seen with the mask mandate, if anything, are over enthusiastic about following them. Canberrans are keeping each other safe

Allan AJ Allan AJ 12:55 pm 10 Jul 21

Small population and not a holiday destination. Who what’s to come to Canberra. We don’t have anything. Only really public servants that travel here for work and since a lot of them are allowed to work from home, that has stopped too

    Tracy Robinson Tracy Robinson 1:07 pm 10 Jul 21

    Allan AJ

    You’d be surprised who comes here for a holiday. I work in Tourism and over Easter the key tourist places were very very crowded.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 1:46 pm 10 Jul 21

    Allan AJ , Really! Canberra with the War Memory, Art Gallery, etc is not a holiday destination, while south western Sydney (a hot spot) is a holiday destination? What are these holidayers doing there, checking out the housing commission homes?

Gay McGuire Gay McGuire 12:30 pm 10 Jul 21

Don’t be complacent get vaccinated, observe social distancing & wash your hands.

Shopping trolleys in all businesses should have staff to be regularly cleaning them.

Restaurants keep tables clean but more importantly use a CLEAN CLOTH not the same one for every table!

Is NOT hard just common sense & every day hygiene.

Aldith Graves Aldith Graves 12:13 pm 10 Jul 21

Pride cometh before a fall..don't jinx us. Gladys is paying the price for the same. Just be very mindful & follow the guidelines

Monty Ki Monty Ki 11:59 am 10 Jul 21

Canberrans are a great mob. We look out for our community and most of us really do do the right thing. Big group hugs to all Canberrans. I'm proud of us. 🤗

Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić 11:45 am 10 Jul 21

Happy birthday!

But I have been saddened to find out that ACT cancelled repatriation flights - and of all reasons - for costs!

That is just wrong.

Col Strand Col Strand 11:29 am 10 Jul 21

Need to keep watch now NSW is getting rampant!

Stephen Matthews Stephen Matthews 11:12 am 10 Jul 21

Just stay at home until everythings ok.Batemabs Bay will still be there canberra

Debbie Lizars Debbie Lizars 10:47 am 10 Jul 21

Probably about to change, a 24 year old from Greater Sydney came to Canberra. 😞

    Jenny Koch Jenny Koch 11:34 am 10 Jul 21

    Debbie Lizars thinking the same thing. Only takes one to flaunt the rules.

    Jason O'brien Jason O'brien 1:02 pm 10 Jul 21

    Debbie Lizars where did you read that?

    Debbie Lizars Debbie Lizars 2:58 pm 10 Jul 21

    Jason O'brien all over the news. OnScene, Police news, everywhere 🙂

    Jason O'brien Jason O'brien 7:14 pm 10 Jul 21

    Debbie Lizars yeah right. Not good

Rajat Sehgal Rajat Sehgal 10:45 am 10 Jul 21

Bella Hewitt Touchwood right

Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell 10:42 am 10 Jul 21

It's because Andrew Barr made everyone run in one direction around the lake.

Jackie White Jackie White 10:33 am 10 Jul 21

I keep thinking all these ‘one year’ stories are jinxing us….. with Sydney exploding and some people ignoring lockdown, now is not the time to be complacent or celebrate 1 year.

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