8 January 2021

UPDATED: Canberrans in Brisbane told to stay put until Monday night under tougher COVID rules

| Dominic Giannini
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Dr Kerryn Coleman

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman has consistently said the ACT would move in line with NSW restrictions. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Non-ACT residents who have been to the Greater Brisbane area on or after 2 January will not be allowed to enter the ACT from 3:00 pm today (8 January) and those already in the Territory must isolate immediately for 14 days from when they left Queensland.

Non-ACT residents are allowed to return home immediately and those who choose to quarantine in the ACT must alert ACT Health by 3:00 pm Saturday.

ACT residents will be able to enter the Territory but must undergo 14 days of self-isolation when they arrive. Exemptions for non-residents will only be granted in extenuating circumstances, ACT Health says.

The quarantine requirements have gone further than NSW where people who have been to the Greater Brisbane area from 12:01 am on 2 January have to isolate from 6:00 pm tonight until 6:00 pm Monday (11 January).

ACT residents currently in Brisbane have been told to remain in place until the lockdown ends on Monday evening, except under exceptional circumstances.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the ACT’s direction was in line with NSW and Queensland – Greater Brisbane will enter a three-day lockdown from 6:00 pm tonight – but that the Territory was taking a different approach to achieve the same goal.

“The intention is exactly the same, it is just how it is being implemented,” Dr Coleman said.

“Our messaging here in the ACT has been very consistent around going into quarantine and when you go into quarantine, you expect to go into it for 14 days.”

There are 2,900 currently quarantining in the ACT, and this number is expected to remain steady as people who have visited Brisbane are forced into isolation, Dr Coleman said.

The measures will be reviewed on Tuesday, with Dr Coleman leaving the door open for quarantine ending early for people who have been to Brisbane, although she said she did not want to give anyone false hope.

“I have committed to reassessing the situation. It may be that we end up doing a similar aspect to what NSW is doing if that is what the evidence shows,” Dr Coleman said.

The review will be delivered on Tuesday, the same time that restrictions on the Greater Sydney region will be reviewed as well.

The measures have been put in place after a hotel quarantine worker in Brisbane was diagnosed with the more infectious UK-variant of COVID-19. The UK strain could be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.

READ ALSO Explainer: what the ACT’s new COVID-19 restrictions mean for you

The UK strain is also confirmed to have infected six returned travellers in NSW while a further four have been diagnosed with a South African strain which shows similarities to the UK mutation.

Flights into Australia have again been limited and the ACT will not receive a repatriation flight in late-January, early-February as planned, Chief Minister Andrew Barr confirmed.

Mr Barr said designated quarantine facilities may have to be looked at, but this would be unlikely for the ACT.

“That is effectively what Howard Springs is in the Northern Territory but the reality of that is that those facilities do not exist in the quantum of tens of thousands of hotel rooms in Australia,” he said.

“It is clear that a more highly contagious form of the virus in the middle of major city CBDs is a greater risk. How well we can mitigate that risk is what we are looking at and that is why the decision was taken to effectively buy the country some time to assess that.

“We have a lot of natural advantages being an island on the other side of the world and we need to make sure we maintain that advantage.”

Dr Coleman said quality control assurances has made her confident that there is a low risk of an infection control breach.

“I can never say that there will not be a mistake made or that it is not as tight as it should be. This is as tight as we are trying to make it but there is risk with everything.”

Traces of COVID-19 have also been found in sewage around Ulladulla, Mollymook, Dolphin Point, Lake Tabourie, Milton, Narrawallee and Burrill Lake. Residents and people who have been to the area are being urged to get tested if even the mildest symptoms develop.

There have been no traces of the virus found in the ACT or surrounding area’s sewage.

All states and territories will now test hotel quarantine staff daily after National Cabinet endorsed the proposal from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

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