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
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.

Jack Matthews Jack Matthews 10:26 am 10 Jul 21

Rachael Ingleton happy birthday

    Rachael Ingleton Rachael Ingleton 10:30 am 10 Jul 21

    Jack Matthews how good is Canberra 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

Hugh Cullimore Hugh Cullimore 10:24 am 10 Jul 21

Still an amber zone according to several state governments though...

Cameron Harding Cameron Harding 10:19 am 10 Jul 21

Yet Victoria still won't let Canberrans enter without a permit and self-isolation.

Kelly Hartas Kelly Hartas 10:14 am 10 Jul 21

Lets keep up the good work Canberra

Penny Hemsworth Penny Hemsworth 10:11 am 10 Jul 21

Listen to the Experts, do as we're told & we stay safe😉

Kerrie Buitendam Kerrie Buitendam 9:56 am 10 Jul 21

Keep being vigilant Canberra

Anissa Jones Anissa Jones 9:45 am 10 Jul 21

NZ went a year and then got it again. Don’t be complacent now.

Avril Pounds Avril Pounds 9:43 am 10 Jul 21

Great for us, but sad for friends just a few hours up the road in Sydney.

M.J. Leonard M.J. Leonard 9:41 am 10 Jul 21

"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." And a lot of luck. Let's not be too self-congratulatory.

Bryan Doherty Bryan Doherty 9:39 am 10 Jul 21

Dont say it too loud... NSW might hear...

Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 9:33 am 10 Jul 21

COVID can’t afford to live in Canberra

    Callie Elward-Barrett Callie Elward-Barrett 10:57 am 10 Jul 21

    Jorge Gatica best COVID comment possibly ever made

Peter Higgins Peter Higgins 9:23 am 10 Jul 21

For how many more years do we think we can stay isolated, locked down and economically socialised before people realise that Covid MUST become endemic. With our vulnerable already vaccinated, endemic should be declared immediately.

    Louise Flood Louise Flood 9:41 am 10 Jul 21

    Peter Higgins if you leave it to run in large numbers of people who are unvaccinated there is more likelihood of mutations occurring and producing variants that may not be susceptible to the vaccines. This is why so many new variants are occurring in populations where the virus is spiking in frequency. So no it is is not the time to allow it free rein in our community.

    Fran Gray Fran Gray 9:47 am 10 Jul 21

    Peter Higgins not all of our vulnerable are completely vaccinated yet.

    Edna Brooke Jessop Edna Brooke Jessop 10:06 am 10 Jul 21

    Louise Flood You do understand that the jab doesn't stop you from getting or transmitting the virus, right!!!

    Peter Higgins Peter Higgins 10:08 am 10 Jul 21

    Louise Flood according to Nobel prize winning virologist Luc Montagnier, the exact opposite is, and will happen. With MORE frequency of variant from the vaccine. He is not alone in his knowledge, nor his research. The data backing your point is propaganda journalism such as this very article.

    Peter Higgins Peter Higgins 10:09 am 10 Jul 21

    Fran Gray at 8 million vaccinations now, yes, they are

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 10:14 am 10 Jul 21

    Edna Brooke Jessop You do understand the jab for any virus works exactly the same way and you do understand that the vaccination can't create a magic shield. It stops the virus from breeding and shedding. It stops the virus from infecting cells which it needs to do to replicate into large numbers to shed. Transmission and resulting infection between two vaccinated people will be very very low and almost impossible to a third person.

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 10:17 am 10 Jul 21

    Peter Higgins So when we get a variant that attacks young people then what? It is 6-9 months to vaccinate everyone that wants to be. Get that done and then we can open up. Your one virologist would need to convince the majority of his theory, but given he has said everyone with a vaccine will die within a few years I suggest you are hunting for rogue scientists to support your beliefs rather than listening to the consensus which is almost always correct. Also its easy to fund a scientist to go rogue, much harder to convince the whole community.

    Peter Higgins Peter Higgins 10:19 am 10 Jul 21

    Justin Watson you are absolutely, unequivocally, dead wrong. You need to study up on vaccines and how they work. This one is effectively a symptom suppressor called a “vaccine”. It does not create antibodies that stop the disease in its tracks. It reduces the movement in the body using the spike protein via MRNA manipulation.

    Fran Gray Fran Gray 12:30 pm 10 Jul 21

    Peter Higgins no they aren't.

    My 90 year old father is still waiting for his second dose and so is my diabetic/heart condition husband. They won't receive them until later this month. And they both registered for the vaccination as soon as they were allowed to.

    I work with at risk people and so was given my first dose before the rest of my age group but I don't get my second dose until later next month.

    Don't forget originally anyone over 50 was given Astra Zeneca and there is a 3 month wait between doses.

    Julie Kidd Julie Kidd 2:58 pm 10 Jul 21

    Peter Higgins 1 in 10 with Delta end up in hospital. Absolutely cannot open up till vaccination rates are way up.

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 5:56 pm 10 Jul 21

    Peter Higgins "It reduces the movement in the body using the spike protein via mRNA manipulation"?! 🤣

    That really doesn't make any sense whatsoever. If that was your attempt to sound clever and demonstrate your knowledge of immunology, you failed miserably.

    Peter Higgins Peter Higgins 6:04 pm 10 Jul 21

    Lin Van Oevelen funny, from the CDC. Nearly word for word what I said, including how incorrect our friend Justin was:

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 6:10 pm 10 Jul 21

    Peter Higgins That literally contradicts everything you wrote before? 🤦‍♀️

    Peter Higgins Peter Higgins 8:11 pm 10 Jul 21

    Fran Gray sorry, it’s 9 million now.

    Fran Gray Fran Gray 8:19 pm 10 Jul 21

    Peter Higgins that's good. But like I said all our vulnerable people are not fully vaccinated yet.

David Newman David Newman 9:15 am 10 Jul 21

We have to stay vigilant and be ready to react, instead of delaying like Sydney did because they believed that their system was so much better than others. IMO, their earlier successes created smugness that has now been their downfall.

https://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/news/double-standards-accused-in-lockdown-policing-of-sydneys-east-and-south-west/news-story/fbda3f853516e14be76025a245d574af

Holly Nebauer Holly Nebauer 9:09 am 10 Jul 21

Tom Steer for how much longer though?

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