18 February 2022

UPDATED: Dancing back, density limits scrapped tonight but no changes today to QR codes or masks

| Lottie Twyford
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr confirmed dancing will be back from 6 pm tonight in the ACT. Photo: File.

UPDATED 10:30 am: Dancing will be back, density limits are to be scrapped and employees will be able to return to the office as it suits them as the ACT Government sets out a timeline for other major changes to the Territory’s remaining public health social measures.

No changes to check-in requirements or the indoor mask mandate have been made yet, but Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith is expected to announce how the latter will be wound back next week.

The government has pre-empted that some changes to mask rules will come into effect on Friday (25 February).

From 6 pm today:

  • All density limits that currently apply to restricted businesses and activities will be removed, and there will no longer be a requirement for businesses to display signage for capacity limits.
  • The requirement for patrons to be seated while eating and drinking in hospitality and licensed venues will be removed, and dancing will be permitted.
  • Ticketing and preregistration requirements for events will be removed.
  • Employees can return to the workplace if it suits them and their employer.

On Monday 21 February:

  • Elective surgery will resume at Calvary Public Hospital Bruce, with a gradual return to full capacity in the following days. (Non-essential elective surgery ceased at Calvary Public Hospital, but not at Canberra Hospital, on 7 January due to the Omicron wave.)

From 11:59 pm Monday 21 February:

  • The mandatory quarantine period for unvaccinated international travellers will be reduced to seven days. Exemptions for unvaccinated travellers to enter the ACT to complete their quarantine period will still be required.
  • The requirement that international travellers complete an online declaration form will be removed.
  • Testing requirements and restrictions for international travellers entering high-risk settings will remain.

From 11:59 pm Friday 25 February:

  • There will be changes to the current requirements to wear a face mask in indoor spaces. Further details will be announced next week.
  • Exemption requirements for all events will also be removed. However, events of more than 5,000 people will be asked to submit their COVID Safety Plans to ACT Health for review.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he was cautiously optimistic as daily caseloads remain stable in the Territory.

“While we recognise the situation could change if a new variant of concern emerges, or there is a surge in cases, this step is designed to minimise the disruption of COVID-19 on our local businesses when it is safe to do so,” Mr Barr said.

The news comes a day after the ACT recorded 537 new cases of COVID-19 and the death of a man in his 20s. It’s not known whether he had any underlying health conditions or what his vaccination status was.

More details are expected from the ACT Government in a press conference later this morning.

More to come.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith has previously indicated masks could remain in place throughout winter. Photo: Region Media.

The ACT Government is expected to declare changes to public health orders later today after NSW and Victoria announced yesterday that a host of restrictions would be wound back.

A spokesperson for the government indicated to Region Media a mid-morning update will be provided by Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith.

It’s unclear what changes will be made as Ms Stephen-Smith previously indicated masks could remain in place throughout winter.

Currently, the Territory’s low-level public health restrictions – including a ban on dancing and singing at hospitality venues, the requirement to remain seated while eating and drinking and density limits – are scheduled to end next Friday (25 February).

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee said it’s time restrictions are lifted in the ACT to fall in line with NSW’s settings. Photo: Region Media.

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee issued a call yesterday for the ACT to fall into line with the larger states, claiming there is nothing fundamentally different between NSW and the ACT.

She’s asked the government to show “compassion” to businesses and lift any remaining restrictions.

“It appears [the NSW and Victorian] governments understand how tough businesses are doing it at the moment and how important easing these restrictions are when safe to do so,” she said.

“Surely the health advice across the states and territories should not differ so much that businesses in the ACT are forced to comply with density limits in stark contrast to those just across the border,” Ms Lee said.

In October last year, NSW lifted many restrictions before the ACT, leading to a situation in which Canberrans were border-hopping to go shopping at venues in Queanbeyan and other surrounding areas.

Ms Lee said at the time this sort of scenario put local businesses at a disadvantage.

Last year, Mr Barr rejected claims the ACT changed any of its public health settings because of decisions made by interstate governments.

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Yesterday, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced masks and QR codes will be scaled back amid a host of other eased restrictions.

Dancing and singing is permitted in hospitality venues such as pubs and clubs, and the two square metre density limit has been scrapped entirely. QR codes are now only mandatory in settings such as nightclubs and music festivals.

Changes to mask rules will come into effect next Friday (25 February). From that date, masks will only be mandatory on public transport and settings like hospitals and aged care facilities.

Singing and dancing will also be permitted at music festivals from the same date and the required hotel quarantine period will be reduced for unvaccinated travellers from 14 days to seven days.

Mr Perrottet said he would work with the state’s public service to bring people back to the office in the coming weeks and he expected other employers to do the same.

The official direction for employees to work from home has now been changed to “at employer’s discretion”.

From 6 pm tonight in Victoria, dancing will be permitted, QR codes will no longer be necessary for many places although they will still be required in hospitality and entertainment venues and density limits will be scrapped for hospitality venues.

More to come.

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Mr Perrotet has reduced NSW restrictions early. He’s done that before and it didn’t go so well.

Before making local changes, I think it’d be worth seeing what happens in NSW. I’m betting on a spike in their numbers, more pressure on hospitals and supply chains.

At a very basic level, masks, at least, provide some means of reducing infection; if worn correctly!

Read on another forum – if you can smell a fart through your mask, it doesn’t work

Utter garbage, Futureproof.

That should be obvious. You can breathe through a mask.

Hydrogen Sulphide is a gas, its molecules not remotely the size of any virus.

Chill out phydeaux, you take yourself too seriously. I should have put /sarc at the end, so you didn’t blow a valve

Nice wriggle.

Futureproof, I recall that someone here previously has claimed that the fact you could still smell things meant masks did not work. I recollected it may have been you, and the nature of claim is not inconsistent with some of your other posts, but Riotact does not give me a search facility to check. If it was not you, I withdraw my more aggressive comments entirely. At least we have facts available that masks do work.

phydeaux. I don’t think that was me. Your comment is not aggressive. Just banter

I have been singing and dancing at my place already as well as drinking standing up (then falling down eventually). Doing most other things (since I am retired) except the elective surgery. Still studying online at the CIT for that. My wife refuses to use our QR code for check-in to our home when she has been outside. What am I to do?

You could throw un bal masqué for two, Earthdog. If things get a bit warm, you might both consent to removing your masks, though I’ll draw a veil over that.

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