The ACT’s Public Health Emergency Declaration has been extended by 90 days, although the use of Check In CBR will no longer be mandatory from 11:59 pm this Friday (13 May).
Instead, the app will be reborn as a health screening tool for use in settings like hospitals.
A public health emergency was first declared on 16 March 2020 and was initially in force for a period of only five days. It hasn’t been lifted since.
With this extension, its powers will end in August, although it will be reviewed every 30 days.
At the same time, ACT Government is working on new laws so it can step down from a pandemic ’emergency’ to pandemic ‘management’. Those COVID-specific laws were set to be debated earlier this year but will now go before the ACT Assembly in June.
They have been touted as providing greater human rights protections and better oversight than what’s allowed for under the emergency legislation.
Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the extension of the emergency would mean the Chief Health Officer could continue to take necessary public health actions over winter and as COVID-19 transmission remained high.
Around 1000 COVID-19 cases are reported every day in the ACT.
“We anticipate that the upcoming winter will bring additional challenges as people spend more time indoors and the health care system deals with both COVID and influenza in the community.
“It is therefore vital the government has the ability to respond quickly should this be required over the coming months – for example, if a new variant presents an additional risk,” she said.
Relaxed rules, which come into effect on Friday after 11:59 pm, mean checking in will largely become a thing of the past.
Since February, it’s only been mandatory to check into settings such as pubs, clubs, nightclubs, strip clubs, brothels and non-ticketed events.
But that won’t be necessary any longer, and users of the app will also stop receiving automatic exposure notifications.
For the most part, contact tracing of positive COVID-19 cases ground to a halt in late December 2021/early January 2022 when cases increased significantly with the arrival of the Omicron variant.
The app won’t become completely obsolete as it’s been upgraded to include a new health screening tool for voluntary use by high-risk facilities and a direct link to the online form to record positive RAT results.
“The health screening tool will allow high-risk facilities such as hospitals, residential aged care facilities, disability services and correctional facilities that often have separate screening and check-in methods to use one tool to screen and automatically check-in visitors,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
The new tool won’t be available until 20 May, and any organisation planning to use it will have to apply for a new QR code.
Canberrans are encouraged to keep the Check In CBR app downloaded on their phones.