20 December 2020

UPDATED: Stricter quarantine rules expanded, likely to remain in place until New Year

| Dominic Giannini
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Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman has announced new restrictions for people returning from the greater Sydney area. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Updated 6:45 pm: From midnight tonight, anyone entering the ACT from Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, the Illawarra-Shoalhaven and Nepean Blue Mountains area will have to quarantine in the ACT for 14 days under a new Public Health Order from the Chief Health Officer.

Returning ACT residents will be able to quarantine at home, and ACT Health has affirmed that the decision is not designed to stop ACT residents returning home.

However, Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the ACT’s border was “effectively closed” to people from Greater Sydney.

Returning residents will have to notify ACT Health in advance of their arrival and will be able to quarantine at home. People in the same household will also need to quarantine, even if they have not travelled to Sydney themselves.

ACT Health will work with returning residents to ensure quarantine compliance. COVID-19 tests will likely be conducted on entering quarantine and before a person is allowed to leave.

People returning to the ACT will have to fill out a declaration form online. A permit system is not being implemented at this stage.

The quarantine period is from the time a person leaves the Greater Sydney region. ACT Policing will be checking details at Canberra Airport and at borders to ensure people travelling from the region are not trying to circumnavigate restrictions to get into another jurisdiction.

Penalties and fines will apply to people who disobey the rules.

This afternoon’s announcement follows confirmation from the NSW Government that the cluster of COVID-19 cases on the Northern Beaches of Sydney has grown to 68 people.

A new case of COVID-19 was also confirmed in Canberra today, a Commonwealth official in her 40s who had recently returned from overseas. She has been in quarantine since arriving and tested positive on day 12.

The new restrictions are likely to remain in place over Christmas and into the new year, Dr Coleman said.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation,” she said.

“We are reviewing the data on a six-hourly basis. We are still trying to get a handle on, and understand the extent of, the cluster and the extent of community transmission in Sydney and NSW.”

Gatherings in the ACT with ACT residents will not have extra restrictions imposed at this stage.

“I am not recommending that we reduce gatherings or implement community restrictions,” Dr Coleman said. “I feel that at the moment we can manage this risk with quarantine.

“This is about raising people’s awareness that [people from Greater Sydney] are a significant risk. If you are expecting family and friends [from Greater Sydney], say don’t come.

“I think every one of us has a role in implementing these directions.”

Anyone who has visited the Northern Beaches since 11 December must still quarantine for 14 days from the last date they were there and be tested for COVID-19 even if they do not have symptoms, and must remain in quarantine for the entire 14 days even if they return a negative result.

With further contact tracing in NSW, the list of venues attended by COVID-19 cases has expanded in the past few days. For the full, updated list of venues of concern, visit Health NSW.

For information on how to isolate, including financial support and how to access food or medication, visit ACT Health.

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