UPDATED 1 pm: Despite NSW relaxing rules on the movement of ACT residents last night, Chief Minister Andrew Barr has remained steadfast in his government’s current roadmap.
He’s again pleaded with Canberrans for patience over the next few weeks, asking that travel across the border is still only done for essential reasons until the beginning of November when he anticipates greater travel freedoms will be allowed.
This is not the first time the Chief Minister has said he’s foreshadowing much greater travel freedom at the next lockdown checkpoint on 29 October.
Mr Barr said the ACT will continue to reserve the right to identify an area in NSW as a hotspot and have specific requirements for travellers from any LGAs of concern.
However, he anticipates very few will be necessary after 1 November when NSW relaxes the current Greater Sydney bubble and says he expects and anticipates freedom of movement from Sydney into the ACT from this date.
Under the current guidelines, you must only cross the border for an approved reason: work, education, medical needs, to fulfil usual childcare arrangements, or to visit friends or family.
However, upon your arrival in NSW as an ACT resident (and vice versa), you’re also then able to partake in other permitted activities in that jurisdiction – such as going to a pub.
Asked specifically about the complexities of crossing the border, Mr Barr said he did not want to underestimate people’s capacity to understand the “fundamental principles that are at play”, and did not personally think the current rules were “that complicated”.
“Every time you’re near people, it’s a transmission risk,” he said.
“Our advice to everyone is to be careful.
“If you don’t need to travel, don’t travel; if you don’t need to cross the border, don’t cross the border,” he stated.
Mr Barr has repeatedly said that today is not a Freedom Day, and travelling interstate for recreation or a holiday shouldn’t yet be at the forefront of Canberrans’ minds.
Currently, it’s logistically difficult for an ACT resident to travel beyond the 27 NSW postcodes which have already been granted a standing exemption, as they require an exemption to return.
Mr Barr said a potential expansion of these postcodes was on the cards but would not be announced today. He said the vaccination rates of individual LGAs as well as case numbers would be factors to be taken into account when making these decisions.
According to Mr Barr, most Canberrans are happy with the current arrangements, which he says prioritise public health first and foremost.
He says most people will take a measured and cautious approach to heading out into the community post-lockdown.
The Chief Minister also waded into the discussions around international travel, although said it was not a “particularly pertinent issue to the ACT” as direct international flights are not expected in the next few months.
Instead, he said the ACT Government will work with the Victorian, NSW, and potentially the Queensland governments around the transit arrangements for travellers who fly into an interstate airport but wish to come to Canberra.
“If you’re unvaccinated, that [transit] would be a different pathway to someone who is fully vaccinated and tests negative [to the virus],” Mr Barr explained.
The NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet today announced that from 1 November, international arrivals to NSW will require a negative PCR test before flying and upon landing, but scrapped the requirement for any kind of quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers.
Mr Barr said a sensible distinction had been drawn at a Commonwealth level between quarantine requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated overseas arrivals.
UPDATED 11:40 am: The ACT has recorded 35 new cases of COVID-19 and one death to 8 pm last night.
ACT Health has reported that a woman in her 70s died at the Calvary Haydon aged care facility. She is the eighth person to die in the ACT in this outbreak and the seventh at the facility.
Yesterday, the ACT reported 46 new cases and one death.
Of the 12-plus population in the ACT, 76 per cent are now fully vaccinated.
There are 16 people in hospital with COVID and eight in intensive care.
NSW has reported 399 local cases and four deaths in the past 24 hours.
Almost 78 per cent of its 16-plus population is double-vaxed. There are 677 people in hospital with COVID and 145 in ICU.
Yesterday the state recorded 444 new cases and four deaths.
Victoria has recorded 2179 cases and six deaths – the second day in a row new infections have exceeded 2000.
Yesterday the state had 2297 cases and 11 deaths.
As of yesterday, 62.6 per cent of eligible Victorians were fully vaccinated.
9:40 am: While ACT authorities avoid calling today ‘Freedom Day’, 11:59 pm last night did at least mark the end of the Territory’s hard lockdown.
Travel arrangements between NSW and the ACT changed dramatically last night, with NSW removing the ACT as a COVID-affected area.
This means ACT residents are effectively treated the same way as NSW residents. There’s no longer any need to complete a border declaration or undergo stay-at-home orders upon arriving in NSW.
In NSW, travel and freedoms are contingent on an individual being fully vaccinated.
However, ACT residents cannot leave the approved border bubble suburbs because, if they want to return, they will need to apply to ACT Health for an exemption and will more than likely be subject to stay at home orders or be required to quarantine.
Monaro MP John Barilaro said this morning on breakfast radio that he and his federal counterpart Kristy McBain would continue to push the ACT Government for greater clarity around what rules Canberrans would be subject to on their return.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr, however, has yet to respond to the change but has previously said the government is unlikely to make any changes to regional travel allowances until 29 October.
The Opposition is urging the Chief Minister to align the cross-border travel arrangements for ACT residents with those of regional NSW.
Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee said that after last night’s announcement from the NSW Government that allows ACT residents to travel in NSW, it only makes sense for the ACT to follow suit.
Earlier in the week, Senator Zed Seselja called on the ACT Government to “normalise” the border.
For Victorian authorities, it triggered an automatic downgrading of the ACT from a ‘red zone’ to an ‘orange zone’. Therefore, people entering Victoria from the ACT must now apply for a permit, get tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of arrival and remain isolated until they receive a negative result.
Late yesterday evening, St Mary MacKillop Catholic College was identified as an exposure site and students will be forced to return to home learning. Both campuses have been shut down until at least next Thursday, 21 October as a precaution and to allow deep cleaning to take place.
Classes were cancelled yesterday and today.
Year 11 students had not yet returned to school, and year 12s had only been on campus since Tuesday, 5 October.
The school has not been listed as an exposure site on the ACT Health website and it was not mentioned at yesterday’s final COVID-19 daily briefing.
Unfortunately, while contact tracing rules may have changed, they have not disappeared altogether, and Canberrans identified as positive cases or close contacts will still have to quarantine for 14 days.
Some hospitality businesses have expressed concern over the new system, saying it still does not allow them the certainty required to operate under current conditions.
From today, the Government will no longer identify low impact risk sites and venues where exposure has been confirmed in a customer, nor will they identify secondary contacts or household contacts (meaning these people will not need to quarantine).
While no new close contact exposure locations were listed overnight, new casual contact locations have been identified.
Visit the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website for a full list of exposure sites and specific times of concern.
The Renaissance Apartments Construction Site (Morris Group Builders) has been listed as a venue of concern for Tuesday, 5 October between 7:30 am and 5 pm and Wednesday, 6 October between 7:30 am and 3:30 pm.
Several public transport routes have also been listed for Friday, 8 October. These include bus route 81, which travelled from Tuggeranong Interchange to Bonython between 7:07 pm and 7:14 pm; bus route 81, which travelled from Bonython to Tuggeranong Interchange between 1:23 pm and 1:33 pm; and bus route 76, which travelled from the Tuggeranong Interchange to the Chisholm Shops between 2:19 pm and 2:36 pm.
Also of concern is bus route 76, which travelled from Chisholm Shops to Erindale Interchange between 4:12 pm and 4:26 pm and bus route 75, which travelled from Erindale Interchange to Tuggeranong Interchange between 4:12 pm and 4:26 pm.
The Tuggeranong Discount Store was also listed three times. The times of concern are Thursday, 7 October between 7:50 am and 3:30 pm, Friday, 8 October between 8:20 am and 5 pm and Saturday, 9 October between 8:50 am and 7:30 pm.
In Canberra’s North, 7-Eleven Holt is listed as a casual contact exposure site on Friday, 8 October between 4:05 pm and 4:50 pm, Woolworths Dickson on Saturday, 9 October between 7:50 am and 8:40 am.
Pixie and Bear in Casey is also a casual exposure site between 9:30 am and 11 am on Saturday, 9 October, as is the Friendly Grocer in Hughes on Sunday, 10 October between 8 am and 12:30 pm.
The Phillip Medical and Dental Centre is also listed as a casual contact exposure site on Tuesday, 12 October, between 7 am and 7:50 am.