Restrictions on adults visiting family and friends, and leaving the house for essential trips only, have been relaxed in the ACT after today’s National Cabinet meeting.
Following in the footsteps of NSW, Territorians will now be able to attend small gatherings in other households, and non-essential shopping trips will be allowed provided physical distancing is maintained.
Rules around compassionate travel have also been eased. Canberrans are now permitted to travel interstate to visit family and friends, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr urged travellers to use common sense and only travel in small groups.
A return to face-to-face learning could also occur more quickly than expected in the ACT.
Both Mr Barr and Education Minister Yvette Berry have previously stated that students will continue with online learning for as long as necessary, and just a fortnight ago (17 April) Ms Berry said the ACT was prepared to “deliver remote education for the whole of term two”.
While Mr Barr said it was not a race between jurisdictions to get children back into classrooms, schools may return to normal lesson schedules sooner than expected and the ACT Government was working with school communities to achieve that.
“We are preparing to move to face-to-face teaching during term two if the circumstances allow us to do so in a sensible manner. We believe with the position we are in, and where we hope to be in the coming weeks, that will be possible.”
Ms Berry said there was no timeframe set for a physical return to schooling activities at the moment, but today’s language marked a change in tone from Mr Barr and Ms Berry, although the Chief Minister again warned against complacency, expressing his worry about potential second, third or fourth waves that can break out as a result of one case.
“There is a reality that it is not over yet,” Mr Barr said. “Until there is a vaccine there is always a risk that we return to unsustainable daily increases.
“I would not take this as an invitation for visits of six, eight or 10 adults. Certainly, a family unit can visit with children but this is not an invitation to have large dinner parties.”
While other jurisdictions have moved ahead with easing restrictions, including the Northern Territory which will allow pubs to trade from 15 May, Mr Barr said discussions will continue but no date could be put on this in the ACT because of its unique position as the “nation’s meeting place”.
Canberra will always be at a higher risk as people meet in the capital to conduct their business, he said.
Further changes and reductions to lockdown and social-distancing restrictions, specifically around businesses and outdoor gatherings, are on the agenda for next week’s National Cabinet meetings, Mr Barr said.