23 February 2022

ACT records 946 new cases of COVID-19, Barr says ACT ultimately sets its own rules

| Lottie Twyford
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Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said decisions made in NSW obviously impact the ACT, but ultimately, the Territory will chart its own public health course. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

Just hours after the ACT announced the significant easing of mask rules from Friday (25 February), ACT Health is reporting 946 new cases of COVID-19 and 40 people in hospital, including two in intensive care, although none require ventilation.

Yesterday there were 583 new cases.

It’s the highest number since 1467 cases were recorded on 19 January.

The new cases today have been identified from 376 PCR and 570 RAT results and take the ACT’s active caseload to 3185 (1324 PCR and 1861 RAT).

There have now been 46,591 (33,255 PCR and 13,336 RAT) cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic reported in the ACT.

The vaccination rate for the ACT’s 12-plus population remains 98.6 per cent, and 65.8 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have received a booster.

Of ACT residents aged 5 to 11, 77.7 per cent have received one dose.

The post-O-Week cluster at the ANU is expected to grow.

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Chief Minister Andrew Barr told an ACT Legislative Assembly inquiry yesterday (22 February) the ACT will set out its own public health restrictions and rules, but there does need to be a good reason for the ACT to have different settings from NSW.

Throughout the pandemic, Mr Barr has repeatedly stressed the geographically unique situation the ACT is in, being “essentially an island in NSW”.

“[NSW] doesn’t make all of the decisions for us, but it does obviously have an impact, as I’ve been saying for the last two years,” Mr Barr said.

“Look, there has to be a pretty good reason – and there has been over the course of the last two years at times – for the ACT to have a different position from NSW.”

Last week, the larger states announced eased rules ahead of the ACT, which was quick to follow suit with similar announcements about density limits last Friday and masks this morning, among other changes.

Mr Barr told the hearing that NSW and Victoria often acted together without notifying the other states and territories of their plans. He said other premiers had also raised this issue with Victorian Premier Dan Andrews and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.

Mr Barr had indicated that he and the ACT’s health officials were aware of the changes NSW announced last week, but they had been under the impression the announcement would be made early this week instead.

“The direction they were heading in, we understood. But the exact fine detail and the exact dates and times and what was in and what was out in the NSW context is obviously a decision for them, and they’re able to make that,” he said.

In October last year, there was uproar when discrepancies between NSW and ACT rules meant Canberrans could ‘border-hop’ to spend money interstate in shops but couldn’t do so in the Territory.

When the ACT changed its restrictions to bring it into line with NSW, Mr Barr said there had been a “degree of confusion” with different rules on one side of the border to the other. The primary driver for the ACT’s changes had been its own high vaccination rates.

The Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman, also acknowledged at the time that the practicalities of “being an island within NSW had implications for needing to provide consistency”.

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Interstate, NSW has reported six deaths overnight and 8391 new cases (5661 RAT and 3270 PCR).

There are now 1246 people in hospital with the virus and 69 people in ICUs around the state.

Victoria has reported 17 deaths overnight and an additional 6926 cases of COVID-19.

There are now 319 people hospitalised with the virus in the state.

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