The ACT Government has moved to introduce restrictions for people from 14 NSW regions, including parts of the South Coast and Southern Highlands, following the spread of the virus from Greater Sydney.
NSW has again posted a record number of locally acquired cases with 291 new cases announced today (6 August) by Premier Gladys Berejiklian, up from 262 yesterday.
Six deaths have been linked to the state’s outbreak over the past two days.
People leaving from the 14 affected areas will not be able to enter the ACT without an exemption. Returning residents will automatically be granted an exemption but will need to quarantine for 14 days from when they were last in the area after restrictions came into effect last night (5 August).
Returning residents will need to fill out an online declaration form on the COVID-19 website.
The local government areas include Armidale, Dubbo, Maitland, Newcastle, Singleton, Cessnock, Dungog Shire, Mid-Western, Port Stephens, Wingecarribee Shire, Coffs Harbour, Lake Macquarie, Muswellbrook and Shoalhaven.
The ACT has also reintroduced stay at home orders for people who enter the Territory from Victoria, mirroring the state’s weeklong lockdown measures announced yesterday afternoon.
The stay at home orders will remain in place until at least midnight Thursday, 12 August.
With lockdowns now in place across Australia’s three biggest states, Ms Berejiklian said vaccination rates needed to grow before the state can emerge from its current restrictions.
“The more people we get vaccinated, the sooner we will be able to live more freely, and I really want to stress that point,” she said.
The state is pushing to reach six million jabs by the end of August when the current lockdown is scheduled to end.
Ms Berejiklian said higher vaccination rates were needed to help the state emerge from the current restrictions.
The Federal Government will ship an extra 185,000 Pfizer doses to Sydney but ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the Territory has not requested further Pfizer supplies from the national stockpile.
Ms Stephen-Smith said appointments in Canberra would not be cancelled in favour of redistributing vaccines to NSW as it would inconvenience Canberrans and impact confidence in the ACT’s rollout without making a large difference in Sydney.
“We would all want more supply if we could get it, but we recognise that Sydney is in a very difficult position, so if there is more supply from the Commonwealth [to NSW] … we would not be begrudging that either,” she said.
The NSW Government has begun decreasing the time between the two AstraZeneca doses as it tries to get more people fully vaccinated.
Second Pfizer doses – given three weeks after the first – have been delayed so more vulnerable people can access at least one dose of the vaccine.
Messaging encouraging younger people in Greater Sydney to get the AstraZeneca vaccine instead of waiting for Pfizer has ramped up as there have been no deaths of fully vaccinated people in the state.
But Ms Stephen-Smith confirmed that the Territory would not be putting in place the same measures regarding vaccination timelines.
“At the moment, we are keeping [the regular] timeframes in place because that is where the evidence is telling us you get the biggest effect from being fully vaccinated in terms of your protection,” she said.
When asked if a declaration system for travellers entering the ACT should be put in place for all of regional NSW to assist with contact tracing should a case arise, Ms Stephen-Smith said the Territory had previously put in place retrospective stay at home arrangements and declarations to assist with contract tracing and minimising any potential spread.
“There are a range of options we would choose from if it was a closer region [the virus seeded in] and it would depend on the circumstances of those cases or clusters that were appearing,” she said.
“It really depends on the circumstances, including how many people come from that region and what the chain of transmission is looking like.”
A meeting of federal, state and territory health ministers is due to be held this afternoon and Ms Stephen-Smith will receive an update on September’s Pfizer supplies from the Commonwealth late this week or early next week.