12 October 2021

UPDATED: The rules get ever more complex as the ACT's border bubble expands

| Lottie Twyford
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map of canberra and surrounds

The expanded border bubble. Image: ACT Health.

UPDATED 4 pm: As Friday draws nearer, the rules governing how our COVID-normal will look continue to be released.

As expected, the ACT has this afternoon confirmed that residents of the following postcodes will be afforded the privileges of the so-called ‘border bubble’.

The bubble now includes; Goulburn and surrounds (2580), Braidwood, Araluen and Majors Creek (2622), Jindabyne and surrounds (2627), Berridale and Dalgety (2628), Adaminaby and Cabramurra (2629), Cooma and surrounds (2630, 2631), Bombala and surrounds (2632, 2633), Khancoban and surrounds (2642), Laurel Hill and Nurenmerenmong (2649), Tumbarumba and surrounds (2653), Tumut and surrounds (2720), Gundagai and surrounds (2722), Jugiong and surrounds (2726), Coolac and surrounds (2727), and Batlow and surrounds (2730).

No areas of the South Coast are included at this time, and travel restrictions for these areas will be considered at the end of the month.

There is still some confusion for residents in these areas, as well as those in the current bubble.

For the most part, the confusion is stemming from differing rules on both sides of the border. NSW has issued stay-at-home orders exemptions for their own residents who enter the ACT, but only if they entered the ACT for work or to receive health treatment.

On the ACT side of the border, however, NSW residents can enter for a much broader swathe of reasons including visiting friends.

In practice, the current rules would then dictate that if a NSW resident entered the ACT to work they would not have to undergo stay-at-home orders upon their return. However, if they entered the ACT to see family and friends, they would then need to complete a border declaration and undertake NSW stay-at-home orders.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr says further clarification on how NSW treats ACT residents and the ACT is expected later this week.

Travel from the ACT must first comply with NSW public health orders, a statement from ACT Health read today.

This afternoon, Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain said while attending school in the ACT is not yet an approved reason to receive an exemption from NSW upon your return, she would continue to advocate for this to be included.

More specifically, she said she would continue to advocate for the border arrangement to be a reciprocal one.

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Also released today were the directions for the next sitting fortnight at Parliament House which commences on Monday, 18 October.

According to the directions, only essential staff are allowed to enter the building, and any work that can be undertaken from home should be.

In compliance with ACT Health directions, everyone entering the building must check-in but must not do so if they have any symptoms of COVID-19. Temperature testing will also be undertaken at all entrances.

According to a statement released by the Presiding Officers at Parliament House, the building will remain closed to the public and all non-essential services will remain closed, while masks will be mandatory in the building.

People will also be discouraged from spending time in common areas.

Andrew Barr speaking at what is likely to be one of the last daily press conferences. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

1:45 pm: Chief Minister Andrew Barr has confirmed that the ACT’s lockdown will end at 11:59 pm this Thursday, 14 October, as the Territory moves into the next phase of the gradual reopening plan.

Mr Barr also announced an extension to the current border bubble to allow more NSW residents from the surrounding region to travel freely into the ACT for any of the approved reasons.

These NSW residents will also no longer be subject to NSW stay-at-home orders upon their return home, thanks to a new exemption granted by the state’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, late last night.

From Friday, the border bubble will include Braidwood, Goulburn, Cooma, the Snowy Region and Gundagai.

From Friday, 15 October, some minor easing of restrictions will occur in the ACT. Gathering limits outside will increase to 25 people, five people will be allowed to visit another household, licensed venues can have 25 customers across the venue or 1 per 4 square metres, or 50 outside.

Mr Barr reiterated that the ACT Government is supporting businesses to identify and utilise additional outdoor areas to allow for more patrons.

Hairdressers and personal services, outdoor sports and training, swimming pools and some non-essential retail businesses such as car dealerships, clothes and shoe shops (for booked appointments only) will also operate under strict conditions.

With the changes to ACT restrictions and the border rules occurring on the same day, Mr Barr confirmed border-bubble residents could enter the ACT for essential reasons such as healthcare, education or work, and to visit family and friends either inside or outside a household.

According to the Chief Minister, however, a person from one of these surrounding regions could ostensibly cross the border to go to work in the ACT and then go to the pub, but a NSW resident could not enter the ACT for the sole purpose of going out for a drink because that would not constitute an essential reason for crossing the border.

ACT residents still cannot enter NSW, and unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people still cannot access some services over the border. However, Mr Barr flagged more significant changes to the border arrangements later this month.

He was also optimistic that NSW would reclassify the ACT from Friday when lockdown ends, allowing freer travel.

The daily COVID briefings, which regularly attract more than 10,000 viewers online, are also coming to an end. Instead, ACT Health is already providing daily case numbers via social media and the ACT Health website.

According to Dr Coleman, the daily case numbers are becoming less important as vaccination rates rise and the Territory enters “COVID-normal”.

ACT authorities are expecting an increase in COVID-19 cases in the next few weeks. Dr Coleman has suggested that by next week cases could be in the mid-50s.

It’s likely there will be two more press conferences this week, with tomorrow’s announcement to cover how the test, trace, isolate, quarantine system will operate in the coming weeks and months.

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A number of new exposure locations have also been added to the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website this afternoon.

The Friendly Grocer Hughes is a casual contact exposure site for Tuesday, 5 October, between 9:30 am and 3:30 pm; Wednesday, 6 October, between 12:15 pm and 4:30 pm; and Thursday, 7 October, between 11 am and 1:30 pm and 3 pm to 4 pm.

Also listed is the Friendly Grocer Narrabundah on Monday, 4 October, between 9 am and 11:30 am, and Wednesday, 6 October, between 10:30 am and 12:30 pm.

Another site that appears multiple times is the ABS building in Belconnen (floor one only). It’s listed on Tuesday, 6 October, and Wednesday, 7 October, between 7:30 am and 4 pm on both days.

Woolworths Charnwood is also a casual contact site on Sunday, 3 October between 9 pm and 10 pm, as is Chatterbox Expresso Bar in Belconnen on Wednesday, 6 October between 12 pm and 12:45 pm.

See the website for the newly added monitor for symptoms locations in Calwell, Conder, Gordon, Greenway, Griffth, Gungahlin, Kambah and Wanniassa.

COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine.

More than 350,000 vaccine doses have been delivered in ACT Government clinics. Photo: Michelle Kroll

11 am: There are 28 new cases of COVID-19 in the ACT. Twenty-two are linked to known cases and clusters, including 14 household contacts. The outbreak now totals 1262, with 450 active cases.

Nine of the new cases were in quarantine during their whole infectious period and health authorities say that 16 have been assessed as presenting a risk of transmission to others.

Hospital numbers continue to rise with 19 patients receiving treatment, including eight people in intensive care, six of whom require ventilation.

A total of 3765 tests were performed across the ACT yesterday and ACT Health is working with more than 1600 close contacts. There are more than 380 current exposure locations across the city.

Canberrans are asked to keep up to date on new locations on the ACT COVID-19 website.

Vaccination rates across the ACT continue to climb; ACT Government clinics have now administered 356,652 doses of vaccine, in addition to GP clinics and pharmacies.

The ACT’s lockdown continues until Friday and health directions, including minimising time in the community, only leaving your home for the approved reasons and as far as possible remaining in your local area, continue to apply. Mask wearing, hand hygiene, physical distancing and using the Check In CBR app are also mandatory within the guidelines.

Sign welcoming people to Queanbeyan

Border travel arrangements between the NSW and the ACT have been clarified. Photo: File.

10:30 am: NSW residents who enter the ACT for essential reasons such as work or medical care will no longer be required to complete a declaration and comply with 14-days stay-at-home orders upon returning home.

It’s an exemption that will largely only affect border bubble residents who already have a standing exemption to enter the ACT without needing to quarantine.

The change was made late last night and Monaro MP John Barilaro quickly issued a post to confirm it, saying that “common sense prevails”.

Unfortunately, some confusion ensued because an initial post stated that nobody travelling from the ACT would be required to fill in a declaration nor undergo stay-at-home orders.

This is incorrect.

According to the NSW Health website, only “NSW residents who have been in the ACT for work, to receive medical care, or to accompany someone receiving treatment” are exempt from the declaration and stay-at-home requirements.

The site reads that “everyone else entering NSW after being in the ACT will need to complete a declaration and follow the stay at home rules”. This applies to both NSW and ACT residents.

Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain has also said that entering the ACT for school would be counted as an essential reason, and people who did so will also be exempt from these requirements.

Speaking this morning on ABC Radio, the NSW Cross Border Commissioner James McTavish said any NSW residents who entered the ACT for non-essential reasons would still be required to complete a declaration and abide by the stay-at-home orders upon returning home.

It’s also worth noting that anyone who lives beyond the current approved ‘border bubble’ postcodes will not be able to enter the ACT at all unless given an exemption by ACT Health.

At this stage, all of NSW remains a COVID-affected area under ACT public health orders, so anyone who enters the ACT from beyond the approved postcodes will need to complete an exemption form within 72 hours before arrival in the ACT and quarantine immediately for 14 days.

Mr McTavish did acknowledge that making announcements late at night did make accessing the correct information difficult for the general public.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has already said Canberrans should not yet be travelling to a pub in Queanbeyan for a pint or a winery in Murrumbateman for lunch as this is not an essential reason to cross the border.

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While Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said she welcomed the announcement from NSW as a relief for NSW border residents who are required to travel across the border every day for work, she was looking forward to more clarification as to how ACT residents would be treated by the jurisdiction when the ACT comes out of lockdown on Friday.

She reiterated that the ACT would look to begin expanding the border bubble in the next few weeks, but a significant easing of travel restrictions will not be taking place until November and December at least.

Ms Stephen-Smith repeated the comments of the Chief Minister over the weekend that interstate travel will also be dependent on the decisions of the Victorian and NSW Governments.

“Part of the reason we are taking this gradual pathway out of lockdown is so that by Christmas, we are able to have that extra level of freedom,” she said.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman and Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith are expected to provide an update today at the 11:45 am press conference on what life will look like in the ACT from Friday when greater freedoms are expected for ACT residents.

In the next few days, an announcement will also be made regarding what the test, trace, isolate, quarantine system will look like and how it will operate once the ACT comes out of lockdown.

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New exposure sites were also added to the ACT Government’s exposure site list overnight. As has been the trend over the last week or so, there were no new close contact sites.

Several new public transport routes were added as casual exposure sites overnight, including Route 4 between Woden Interchange and Tuggeranong Interchange on Saturday, 9 October, between 1:15 pm and 1:28 pm, and then from Tuggeranong Interchange to Woden Interchange on the same day between 11:59 am and 12:17 pm.

Also added as a casual exposure site was Route 74 between Richardson and the Tuggeranong Interchange on Saturday, 9 October, from 11:34 to 11:47 am and then from the Tuggeranong Interchange to Richardson on the same day between 3:34 pm and 3:45 pm.

In Canberra’s north, ALDI Amaroo is a casual exposure site for Sunday, 10 October, between 9:30 am and 10:30 am, as is Cincotta Discount Chemist Dickson on Friday, 8 October 9 am and 12 pm.

Woolworths Gungahlin is also a casual contact site on Thursday, 7 October, between 8:50 pm and 10:10 pm, and the Gungahlin General Practice is listed on Wednesday, 6 October, between 5:55 pm and 7:15 pm.

Craig Hall Bodyworks

Craig Hall Bodyworks has been listed as a casual contact site across several days. Photo: Google Maps.

In the City, Coles Canberra Centre is listed on Thursday, 7 October, between 1:45 pm and 2:40 pm. Hearing Australia Braddon is listed twice – on Thursday, 7 October, between 8:45 am and 5:30 pm and Friday, 8 October, between 12:30 pm and 5:30 pm.

Craig Hall Bodyworks in Phillip is also listed multiple times as a casual contact site. The times of concern are Wednesday, 6 October, to Friday, 8 October, between 7:30 am and 5:30 am.

New ‘monitor for symptoms’ locations have been added in the suburbs of Banks, Calwell, City, Conder, Franklin, Fyshwick, Gowrie, Greenway, Griffith, Gungahlin, Holt, Kambah, Mawson, Phillip and Wanniassa.

See the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website for specific exposure times.

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Capital Retro1:16 pm 14 Oct 21

We urgently need an update about ACT residents’ travel to extended NSW postcodes and return.

Nothing was mentioned about it in the last Barr Report this morning.

Capital Retro7:26 am 15 Oct 21

ABC Radio 666 said this morning they are trying to clarify the situation for ACT residents returning from NSW extended postcode area.

Surely someone from the ACT government knows?

When rules are stupid, unnecessary, inconsistent, confusing and pointless they should and must be disobeyed out of a sense of civic duty. Civil disobedience has always been necessary to protect civil rights and freedoms from over zealous officials.

High Vaccination Rate achieved.
Time is up.
Time to open up
Time to free up regional travel.

Need to give people time to get their second vaccination and then the two weeks after that to allow for immunity. Only 70% fully vaccinated, which is not high enough yet. But we will get there.

Except those criteria aren’t based on medical advice or epidemiology, it was simply the ACT government’s excuses to lengthen the lockdowns because of their extreme risk aversion.

On a population level, it makes very little difference and we’ve clearly now passed the reasonable time needed to prepare.

dingus_maximus5:52 pm 12 Oct 21

Shameful from the ACT government once again. Why can we not go to Regional NSW when they can travel here? We are on track to be the most vaccinated city in the world, yet we can’t even go to the pub and have a beer with our friends, where is our reward for doing the right thing for 9 WEEKS!!! How many businesses have gone to the wall because of this contrite overly cautious approach to giving our freedoms back. One almost thinks the government is enjoying the control over it’s population. I am done with this clown and his sycophants parading around saying they have our best interests at heart when all they have done is create misery and sadness in their jurisdiction. Shame, Shame, Shame!!

Maybe because we are still in lockdown? Give it a few days we will be out and rules will change again.

dingus_maximus7:26 pm 12 Oct 21

@JC Maybe you should have a closer read of their so called pathway out of lockdown, nothing will change again until October 29. Regardless of our vaccination rates and compliance to public health orders. It is an absolute joke.

Or maybe it’s because NSW has locked ACT out of the regions for now.

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