UPDATED: Opposition accuses Government of a ‘cover-up’ after changes to travel rules only made yesterday

Lottie Twyford 4 November 2021 19
Dr Kerryn Coleman

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman defended ACT Government communications of the travel rules yesterday. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

UPDATED 5:30 pm: The Public Health Direction that defined ‘fully vaccinated’ as two weeks after the second vaccine dose only came into effect yesterday afternoon due to a “drafting error”, a spokesperson for ACT Health has confirmed.

According to the Government, some people who had travelled to a high-risk zone in either NSW or Victoria needed to quarantine as 14 days had not yet elapsed since their second dose of the vaccine.

But this 14-day lag was only officially added to the Public Health Direction yesterday (3 November).

According to a Health Direction that came into effect on Monday (1 November), people were considered fully vaccinated seven days after receiving both doses.

This was repealed when yesterday’s came into force.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition Giulia Jones has slammed the government for what she described as a “cover-up”.

“This is retrospective rule-making that results in people being unfairly asked to quarantine,” she said.

“Perfectly reasonable Canberrans who have checked the rules are having the rules changed under their feet.”

A spokesperson for ACT Health said several changes had to be made to the Public Health (COVID-19 Affected Areas) Emergency Direction 2021 (No. 11) yesterday, “including amending the definition of fully vaccinated to reflect the intended policy approach, amending the definition of a medical contraction certificate, as well as correcting some terminologies and typographical errors”.

The changes made to the Public Health Direction brought it into line with the advice provided on the exemption form, the spokesperson said.

ACT Health said only seven people have been affected by the amended Directions and they are working closely with them.

“For travellers who are on the cusp of meeting the ‘fully vaccinated’ definition, the ACT Health Exemptions Team has been calling individuals to discuss the requirements and available options,” the spokesperson said.

Covid road sign

The ACT Government has moved to clarify travel rules and their definition of ‘fully vaccinated’. Photo: Region Media.

The ACT Government has now updated its website and clarified travel rules after some Canberrans had to quarantine after returning from high-risk areas interstate because they were not considered ‘fully vaccinated’.

This is because the ACT defines someone as being fully vaccinated – for travel purposes – two weeks after the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Authorities have conceded messaging around this caveat to the rules should have been clearer.

“There’s a bit of a mea culpa on that one. I think we could have been clearer on identifying that was the requirement,” Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said.

Before Wednesday (3 November), this was only noted on the ACT exemption form rather than on the website itself.

Some Canberrans only found out about it when they filled in their exemption forms upon their return.

READ ALSO: COVID confirmed at four Tuggeranong school campuses; ACT records 13 new cases

Currently, anyone who is ‘fully vaccinated’ is permitted to travel freely into hotspot areas of NSW and Victoria and return to the ACT as an automatic exemption is granted to these travellers.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman outlined these new rules last week, but this was not specifically outlined at the press conference.

Yesterday, Dr Coleman sought to defend government communications on the matter, saying her advice to people travelling has always been to understand their obligations under the jurisdiction they are leaving and the one they are entering.

Dr Coleman said they would update the website to make the information more explicit for travellers and noted ACT Health would work with people who may currently be in 14-day-quarantine to see if this period could be shortened as the individual may surpass the fortnight lag time.

The Chief Health Officer said she’d repeatedly spoken about the two to three weeks it takes for a vaccine to become fully effective. Unfortunately, some people had not realised this could impact their ability to travel.

Dr Coleman said she could understand people’s disappointment about not travelling as freely as they would have liked.

READ ALSO: ‘Are you vaccinated?’ A simple question with a not-so-simple answer

In the ACT, unlike NSW and Victoria, few people are required to ‘prove’ their vaccination status unless they are workers covered by a vaccine mandate or, now, are travellers, and there’s no differentiation between the freedoms afforded to vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

A person is considered ‘fully vaccinated’ in NSW and Victora as soon as they can provide evidence of their second dose.

Generally, the vaccine certificate is available within 24 to 48 hours, so a person could ostensibly enjoy freedoms such as going to a cafe or non-essential retail as soon as that.

Neither state has imposed a two-week wait time before a person is considered fully vaccinated.

With the changes to NSW restrictions announced earlier this week, unvaccinated Canberrans aged 16 and up will not be able to travel into NSW until after 15 December or when the state reaches 95 per cent double vaccination (whichever is first).

Initially, freedoms were to be opened up to unvaccinated people on 1 December.

On the other hand, fully vaccinated people will have greater freedoms from 8 November.

There will be no limit on household visitors, no density rules for outdoor gatherings of less than 1,000 people and nightclub dance floors will open up.

A tranche of other changes will also come into effect from that date.

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19 Responses to UPDATED: Opposition accuses Government of a ‘cover-up’ after changes to travel rules only made yesterday
Steve Jones Steve Jones 7:27 pm 04 Nov 21

I remember the days not long ago if a truck driver with a log book spelt a location in their log book wrong they received a fine. But yet the government can stuff up and it’s ok??

    Luke Ashe Luke Ashe 8:11 am 05 Nov 21

    Steve Jones not sure how you could've missed then saying a lot of the time about the 2 week efficacy.

    If someone didn't realise efficacy is important then I don't know what to tell you

Krystle Anne Krystle Anne 6:54 pm 04 Nov 21

Larry Vicencio I don't need to quarantine.

Stephen Mee Stephen Mee 3:57 pm 04 Nov 21

So, if I am at the point where I require a 3rd, am I still fully vaccinated?.

    Scott Abela Scott Abela 5:31 pm 04 Nov 21

    I think so yes, but you're actual immunity will be low all the same.

Greg Ophel Greg Ophel 3:36 pm 04 Nov 21

Kathleen note this.

Daniel Oyston Daniel Oyston 3:21 pm 04 Nov 21

"A person is considered ‘fully vaccinated’ in NSW and Victora as soon as they can provide evidence of their second dose." But in Canberra, full vaccinated is 2-3 weeks after the second dose. Those views are distinguished by arbitrary lines on a map. Man, this country is out of control.

    Ed N Joanne Towner Ed N Joanne Towner 4:34 pm 04 Nov 21

    Daniel Oyston I think there was a lot of loose language when NSW was promoting "freedoms" at certain vaccination levels. Like as soon as they got to a certain percentage it was all good. but really it wasn't ,ACT Govt on the other hand has always said you needed to add about two weeks to the date of 2nd dose to develop immunity and be considered fully vaccinated. You are right there needs to be consistency between the states and territories

    Luke Ashe Luke Ashe 8:08 am 05 Nov 21

    Ed N Joanne Towner if only there were some type of government at the Federal level that could've made this easier

    Julie Priestly Julie Priestly 7:27 am 06 Nov 21

    Daniel Oyston it’s up to every individual to be informed and follow the guidelines. Seems to be that so many individuals couldn’t care less or simply choose to be ignorant of the information provided after they are vaccinated. The information is provided to everyone

    Daniel Oyston Daniel Oyston 7:30 am 06 Nov 21

    Luke Ashe except it’s a federated model, so, they have no power

Jason Preston Jason Preston 3:21 pm 04 Nov 21


If the government has miscommunicated, and someone lands in quarantine for 14 days, will the government compensate them for time lost at work plus expenses?


    Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 3:37 pm 04 Nov 21

    Jason Preston sorry shouldnt laugh...not laughing at you, just the thought that someone might actually get compensated lol

    Jason Preston Jason Preston 3:38 pm 04 Nov 21

    Linda Stapleton


    Well it was just a silly question

    The ACT government weaves left and left to avoid responsibility on just about everything

    Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 3:41 pm 04 Nov 21

    Jason Preston I think we could safely say ALL Governments do this lol... it seems to be standard protocol 🙂

    Jason Preston Jason Preston 3:43 pm 04 Nov 21

    Linda Stapleton pretty much

    But at least once, when they dicked me over, I managed to cause some red faces, humble worry’s, and I extracted a written apology from a department head.

    And it’s framed

    And hanging on the wall

    Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 3:56 pm 04 Nov 21

    Jason Preston lol I love it.. framed on the wall...

    Jay Kay Jay Kay 6:35 pm 04 Nov 21

    Jason Preston https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/pandemic-leave-disaster-payment-australian-capital-territory

    Julie Priestly Julie Priestly 7:23 am 06 Nov 21

    Jason Preston it’s common knowledge that the vaccine takes 14 days to take effect. Those that traveled prior, and especially into high risk areas, do not deserve to be compensated. It’s their own fault for not listening or reading to the info provided!

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