The ACT may not currently be in a lockdown, but frontline staff shortages are beginning to become more evident, and the flow-on impact means getting day-to-day tasks completed is more difficult.
In recent days, “staffing pressures caused by COVID-19” have meant both the Gungahlin and Woden Access Canberra service centres are closed.
Therefore, only the Tuggeranong and Belconnen service centres remain open for general business, while specialised centres such as the Hume Motor Vehicle Inspection Station, Mitchell Land, Planning and Building Services Centre and the Dickson Service Centre (Land Titles Office only) also remain open.
On Monday, 17 February, Tuggeranong was also closed because of an issue related to COVID-19 which had “arisen over the weekend”.
It’s hoped Belconnen and Tuggeranong will remain the key service centres open for the foreseeable future so Canberra’s northside and southside residents can access services more easily.
Access Canberra executive branch manager Emily Springett said there is a need for a balance between supporting the community and supporting staff members who need to isolate, who have caring responsibilities for people who are unwell, or who become unwell themselves.
She said risk assessments will be ongoing to determine future opening hours of the centre, and the community will continue to receive updates.
Ms Springett called for calm and respect from the community when they arrive at the service centres.
Many Canberrans have taken to Facebook to air their frustrations regarding the closure of these centres.
However, many popular transactions such as renewing or transferring car registration (ACT to ACT) can be completed online 24/7.
The only transactions that need to be done in person are registrations that require a photo (for example, a driver’s licence, proof of identity, or working with vulnerable people card) or new number plates (for new registrations or custom plates).
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Access Canberra has been forced to adjust its business model repeatedly – initially moving many services online when the first wave of COVID-19 lockdowns hit in 2020.
During the most recent Delta outbreak, service centres closed entirely for a period of time, and after reopening, extremely long queues were recorded at each centre due to a backlog of transactions.
Capacity limits also meant people needed to queue outside rather than indoors, a spokesperson for the ACT Government told Region Media at the time.
In response to the issues of long queues, customers can now queue virtually at a service centre. This allows customers to scan a QR code, leave the queue and then wait at nearby cafe or shop before being notified by SMS when it is time to enter the service centre to complete their transaction.
Wait times can also be checked online before attending a service centre. Customers cannot join the queue after 4 pm.
All service and specialised centres have arrangements in place to support staff and community safety, including mandatory mask wearing, ongoing cleaning, physical distancing, Perspex screens and hand sanitiser.