27 May 2020

ACT restrictions to ease further but Barr unmoved on quickening pace

| Dominic Giannini
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has announced a detailed timeline to lift lockdown restrictions. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A maximum of 20 people will be allowed to gather and low contact community sports can resume from 12 midnight on Friday (29 May) under relaxed lockdown restrictions announced by the ACT Government today.

The hospitality industry will be permitted to accommodate 20 patrons per outdoor or indoor area provided the ‘one person per four square metre rule’ (including venue staff) is adhered to.

All businesses will have to create a COVID Safety Plan and adhere to the social distancing rules, and rigorous hand hygiene is still being encouraged.

Some of Canberra’s biggest museums, galleries and cultural sites will be allowed to open in time for the long-weekend for groups of 20 people, as will outdoor attractions like the National Zoo and Aquarium.

Beauty therapy, tanning and waxing salons, and nail palours will all be allowed to open, as will spa and massage places, tattoo shops, yoga, barre, pilates and spin facilities.

Gyms will be allowed to reopen but only for small group supervised sessions and equipment cannot be shared because of the increased risk of spreading the virus through heavy and open-mouth breathing during exercise.

Both indoor and outdoor community sport will also make a comeback, but only one parent will be allowed per minor.

Fifty people will be permitted to attend a funeral, but the patronage at weddings will still be restricted to 20.

Universities, the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) and other vocational training providers will be able to increase face-to-face learning where possible, the Government says.

The second half of stage two is set to be implemented from 19 June, increasing the gathering limit to 50 and further easing restrictions around sports and gyms, but specifics are yet to be announced.

Stage three will commence in mid-July and allow up to 100 people to gather. Under stage three, nightclubs, concert venues, food courts and casinos will all be allowed to open, and full-contact sport can resume in line with the National Cabinet recommendations, the ACT Chief Health Officer (CHO) Dr Kerryn Coleman said.

She added that the ACT was not moving in line with the increased patron limit in NSW because the Territory had opted for a broader range of reopenings. NSW will allow 50 patrons at pubs and bars from Monday, 1 June and South Australia recently announced that it will bring forward its timeline for eased restrictions, allowing up to 80 patrons at bars and clubs.

ACT gym

Gyms patrons will not be allowed to use weight equipment for instructor free workouts. Photo: Supplied.

“We are not in lockstep with NSW in many ways. We are moving forward in many ways NSW is not moving forward with,” she said. “We are trying to give everyone in the community some access to some reopening.

“We have tried very hard to give a wide range of openings to all sectors within the community. We have moved quite early on opening up indoor sports as well as some of our museums, galleries and cultural institutions.

“I think there is a principle of cumulative risk of having multiple places open and we are just trying to achieve the right balance here in the ACT.”

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said there is little room to move up the timeline, with reviews taking place every three weeks, and that the ACT will not expedite its removal of restrictions to be in line with NSW against the health advice of the CHO.

Mr Barr said the ACT will not pander to industry lobbying and will continue to listen to the expert health advice from both the Territory’s CHO and the National Cabinet’s health advisory body, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

“We got into this position by following the best public health advice and we will stay in this good position by continuing to follow the best public health advice,” he said.

“No one wants to be in the position where we have to go backward and reintroduce restrictions so what we are looking for is a period of some consolidation to be able to ensure that we have and are able to maintain the good outcomes in the ACT.

“We do not want to throw away all we have achieved by reckless, immature or inexperienced decision making.”

Canberra Liberals

The Canberra Liberals have criticised the Barr Government for not lifting restrictions fast enough. Photo: Region Media.

The Canberra Liberals have welcomed the decision but urged the Government not to take a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Canberra is ready to safely open,” Opposition Leader Alistair Coe said.

“Canberra has the natural advantage to drive a targeted and tailored strategy to reopening our economy, across sectors. We know there is room for more flexibility than what has been announced today.”

The ACT Government is set to announce a hospitality industry assistance package later this week.

A full list of restrictions and easings are available at www.covid19.act.gov.au.

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Is there any science to support outside transmission as a disease vector justifying restrictions on things like sport v transmission on things like mass transit systems i.e. light rail, buses (which continue to operate)?

The US Centre for Disease Control now estimates that the death rate from COVID-19 for those under 50 is 1 in 5,000 (but note thatalmost all those who die have specific comorbidities or underlying conditions).

Those without them are more likely to die in a car accident.

I feel we should have moved in line with NSW – but anyway.

“Canberra has the natural advantage to drive a targeted and tailored strategy to reopening our economy, across sectors. We know there is room for more flexibility than what has been announced today.”

What does this even mean? What ‘natural advantage’ is being referred to. And that mob wonders why they are as close to a permanent opposition as one can find around the world in a democratic setting.

Talk in plain language that makes sense already. Not colloquial dribble that makes no sense at all. The opposition already struggles to cut through with voters as they have no clear policy agenda across most areas bar ‘not what the government does’. Then they have a leader that talks absolute nonsense as well.

We have a natural advantage due to lower population and complete lack of cases for nearly a month. You not understanding it doesn’t make it rubbish. It isn’t rocket science.

“We are all in this together” is nonsense sloganeering.

How does the govt justify not adopting the same stance as nsw?

The ACT has had no cases in 24 days now thanks to prudent management of risk and science-based policy. We don’t have a leader who is a stooge for business interests (and would even allow gambling figures to be put up on the Opera House).

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