UPDATED 1:30 pm: Chief Minister Andrew Barr today encouraged Canberrans to make Christmas plans for South Coast and other interstate travel, saying borders would, in all likelihood, be open by then.
“We can look with great certainty at December, as every expectation is that borders will be open by then,” Mr Barr said at today’s press conference.
Between now and December, however, the Chief said the unlocking of regional travel would occur in stages and would be largely dependent on the decisions made by other states.
For now, the Chief Minister said “it remained to be seen” how the changes in NSW from Monday would affect the ACT, including the allowance the state is making for regional travel.
He did note that there would be no logistical changes to the current arrangements for border communities who currently have a standing exemption to travel into the ACT.
There would also be no change for ACT residents as the lockdown in the Territory will not ease until Friday, 15 October.
“We will not be doing anything crazy with border restrictions or reopening,” Mr Barr said, while some Canberrans have still got to get their second dose of a vaccine.
“I don’t really care what NSW does, we will still be cautious.”
He flagged that the first step for allowing regional travel around the ACT would be an expansion of the current border bubble, which he said would most likely take place sometime in mid-October before allowing greater travel later in the month and then free travel in late November.
Further announcements on this are to be expected, he said.
The Chief Minister also expressed some concern about the uncertainty surrounding how NSW will approach localised lockdowns in the regions and Greater Sydney in the coming months, and the implications this would have for ACT residents travelling interstate.
He said ACT authorities would strive to work closely with their interstate counterparts when determining what regions are hotspots or areas of concern.
For now, he encouraged Canberrans not to make any plans to travel to Queanbeyan for a pint or Murrumbateman for lunch at a winery, saying this would not currently be permitted given the ACT’s lockdown.
Even when the lockdown lifts in the ACT, Mr Barr said ACT residents should still not be leaving the state for non-essential reasons.
The Chief Minister also indicated that today’s press conference would be the last on a weekend. Instead, statements will be issued on Saturdays and Sundays.
New exposure locations have also been added to the ACT Government’s COVID-19 exposure site list this afternoon.
These include some new casual contact sites such as supermarkets in the suburbs of Amaroo, Belconnen, Majura Park, Crace, Holt, Macquarie and Philip.
Erindale Healthcare is also a casual contact exposure site on Tuesday, 5 October between 10:25 am and 11:30 am.
There are also new monitor for symptoms locations in the suburbs of Amaroo, Belconnen, Charnwood, Florey, Holt, Hume, Latham, Macquarie, Nicholls, Phillip, Weston and Wanniassa.
See the COVID-19 website for full details and specific exposure times.
UPDATED 12:30 pm: There were 25 new cases of COVID-19 in the ACT overnight, with only nine of these having been in quarantine for their entire infectious period.
Twelve of these cases were linked to known cases or ongoing clusters.
ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said no new cases had been linked to the Centenary Hospital cluster, and investigations were continuing to uncover how the virus had been brought into that particular setting.
Dr Coleman sought to reassure everyone that work was ongoing to support babies and their carers during this time while still keeping any casual and close contacts in effective quarantine.
Today’s cases bring the ACT’s total number for this outbreak to 1172, with health authorities currently managing 430 active cases. The total number of recovered cases is now sitting at 736.
There are currently 17 people hospitalised with the virus, five of those in ICU and all requiring ventilation.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr told today’s press conference that Friday had been another record day for testing, with 3637 COVID-19 tests recorded. He thanked Canberrans for coming forward.
He also noted that Canberra was on track to become one of the most vaccinated cities in the world, saying the uptake of the vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds had been particularly quick.
Although that age cohort had been the last to be able to access the vaccination, they are now sitting at an 85 per cent first dose rate. Mr Barr did explain, however, that because they were eligible last, their second dose rate was low, at only seven per cent.
Sitting slightly behind this cohort is 20 to 24-year-olds with a 75 per cent first dose. Mr Barr said this was below the territory average for every other age group, but noted that this could be due to some of this cohort – particularly university students – not currently being in Canberra due to border closures and remote learning.
However, he said it was important this cohort gets vaccinated before returning to campus and said the ACT Government would continue to work with universities and CIT on this.
The ACT now has 69.3 per cent of the population aged 12 years and above fully vaccinated and, as the Chief Minister has previously indicated, the bulk of the vaccination program in coming weeks will shift to second doses.
Mr Barr said there were 40,000 second-dose bookings in the coming weeks in ACT Government clinics alone.
He said the Government was committed to ensuring everyone who wants to get a vaccine is able to access one, and he hoped to get the Territory to as close to 100 per cent vaccination rates as possible.
According to the Chief, for every 1000 people who are vaccinated, 80 fewer people will require hospitalisation.
He also implored Canberrans who have not yet been vaccinated to put their name down next to a vacant slot. This week alone in the ACT Government system there are 10,000 first dose bookings and plenty of availability.
UPDATED 11:55 am: The ACT has recorded 25 new cases of COVID-19. Yesterday there were 40.
Of those cases, 12 can be linked to previous cases and 13 are under early investigation.
Nine were in quarantine for the entirety of their infectious period; 16 spent some time in the community.
Seventeen people are now in hospital with COVID, five are in ICU and all five require ventilation.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr congratulated Canberrans for their response to the call for people to be vaccinated.
“We are on the path to becoming one of the most vaccinated cities in the world with 97.1 per cent first dose,” he said.
It was a record day for COVID-19 cases in Victoria, with 1956 people added to the list of those diagnosed and five more deaths.
Around 85 per cent of the eligible population over 16 have received their first dose, while 57 per cent of eligible Victorians have received two doses.
NSW reported 11 deaths due to COVID-19 in the latest reporting period, as well as 580 new local cases.
The deaths were in three women and eight men, with one person in their 50s, one in their 60s, four in their 70s, two in their 80s and three in their 90s.
About 90 per cent of the state has now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with restrictions set to ease for people who have received both doses from Monday.
Yesterday NSW recorded 646 new cases and 11 deaths and Victoria recorded 1838 and five deaths.
9 am: As has been the trend over a number of days, very few new exposure sites have been added to the ACT Government’s list of venues of concern.
Of the entire current list, which now sits at just under 400 active exposure sites, the majority are supermarkets, takeaway food venues and public transport routes.
There were no new close contact sites added, and only two new casual contact locations.
Coles Jamison is listed as a casual contact exposure site on Saturday, 25 September between 7:30 pm and 8:20 pm and Sunday, 26 September between 3:30 pm and 4:30 pm.
Light Rail Route 1, which travelled between Sandford Street to Gungahlin Place on Monday, 27 September between 4:03 pm and 4:13 pm and Tuesday, 28 September between 4:15 pm and 4:25 pm, is also listed as a casual contact site.
There are also monitor for symptoms locations in the suburbs of Amaroo, Dickson, Gungahlin, Hume, Isabella Plains, Lyneham, Macquarie, Rivett and Weston.
See the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website for specific exposure times as well as instructions to follow as a casual contact.
The ACT yesterday announced 40 new COVID-19 cases, with the Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith making special note of the significant impact the pandemic has had on the Territory’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
An update is expected from Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman at 11:45 am today, 9 October.
More to come.