With capacity limits among a host of restrictions to be eased in NSW from today (8 November), the Canberra Liberals are joining calls from the hospitality sector for venue restrictions to be further eased in the ACT as well.
Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee said as the ACT’s vaccination rates top 95 per cent, there’s no longer a reason for hospitality and retail businesses to be subject to strict capacity limits.
In the ACT, retail businesses are currently subject to a one-person per four square metres rule, or one person per two-square metres outdoors.
Hospitality venues are limited to 25 people across the venue and the same capacity limits indoor and out as retail. Patrons must also remain seated while eating and drinking in indoor spaces.
ClubsACT and the Australian Hospitality Association ACT (AHA ACT) have also released a joint statement declaring the hospitality industry is ready to embrace reduced restrictions and resume normal trading again.
ClubsACT CEO Craig Shannon urged the government to keep the Territory’s high vaccination rates in mind when considering easing restrictions earlier than originally anticipated.
The next step of the ACT’s pathway forward is due to take place on 26 November, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr has previously said this could be brought forward subject to the public health situation at the time.
Mr Shannon said the hospitality “sector has taken a few hits over the lockdown period and there is enthusiasm to return to normal trading as soon as possible”.
“Our venues take public health very seriously and apply high standards across the board.”
Shadow Minister for Business Leanne Castley said it is essential for restrictions to ease as quickly as possible to allow businesses to make full use of the heavy trading period during November and December.
“Easing restrictions and bringing the ACT in line with NSW will have a significant impact on so many businesses that have been doing it very tough for months now,” Ms Castley said
“While restrictions have been in place, it has not been viable for many businesses to reopen after the lockdown. Making these changes will be of great assistance to a lot of our struggling businesses.”
The NSW Government has announced that from today there will no longer be any capacity limits for major recreation and entertainment facilities, no limits to the number of visitors in people’s homes and density limits of one person per two square metres to apply across all activities.
AHA ACT CEO Anthony Brierly noted that by 24 November, when the Victorian Government eases all capacity and density limits on venues and the NSW changes come into effect, ACT hospitality businesses will still be limited to 25 per cent capacity indoors, despite the ACT’s high vaccination rates.
The difference between the ACT’s current public health settings and those of NSW is that unvaccinated and vaccinated people are afforded the same freedoms.
When NSW brought its freedoms forward for vaccinated people over the age of 16, they also pushed back the date on which unvaccinated people will be able to partake of them.
Initially, freedoms were to be opened up to unvaccinated people on 1 December. They will now have to wait until 15 December or when the state reaches 95 per cent double vaccination (whichever is first).
This also means unvaccinated Canberrans over the age of 16 will not be permitted to travel into the state.