Vaccine status to determine the freedoms of politicians when the parliament of the Bundestag returns | The Canberra Times

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Fully vaccinated federal politicians and employees from COVID-affected NSW and Victoria will be able to skip fourteen weeks in quarantine in Canberra ahead of the October meetings and estimate hearings under new ACT Health guidelines. But unvaccinated people will be subjected to 14 days of isolation, creating a system of two classes in federal politics. A revised application process also asks politicians to state what brand of vaccine they have received, although ACT Health says details will not affect its “risk assessment” of the traveler. At least one Sydney MP has already decided not to travel to Canberra amid confusion over the new regime. The Canberra Times has seen the document contain the guidelines for politicians and employees who want to travel to the country’s capital next week from COVID hotspots. It reveals that vaccination status will now be considered as part of ACT Health’s case – by – case review of significant work permits. Only six permits had been processed as of Wednesday, though authorities expect to receive more in the coming days. ACT Health has asked people to submit applications no later than three days before the trip. Victoria’s federal politicians must be vaccinated after the state government includes them on its important work list, but no such rules apply to lawmakers and senators from other jurisdictions. The federal parliament returns on October 18 for fourteen days of meetings, which include a week of budget estimates and formal elections for a new Senate president to replace Scott Ryan. The federal parliament is sitting in the last few weeks of Canberra’s lockdown under the heaviest set of restrictions that have been imposed during the pandemic, including drastically reduced numbers. Politicians and staff from locked Sydney and Melbourne were forced to arrive early in Canberra to complete a 14-day mandatory home quarantine before the meeting started on 23 August. But the rules will be different this time, with Canberra and Sydney set to get out of long COVID lockdowns a week before Parliament returns. Unvaccinated people from COVID-affected areas must be isolated for 14 days according to revised guidelines approved by ACT Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman and Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly. MORE COVID-19 NEWS: Fully vaccinated travelers would be able to avoid fourteen days of home quarantine, but their movements would be restricted based on where they came from. Those from local government areas without active cases would be able to leave the home for significant reasons, including work, exercise, and grocery shopping. Restrictions for politicians and staff from areas of active cause will depend on how freely the individual has moved in their community in the 14 days prior to the trip to Canberra. Individuals who have made “significant movement” could be restricted to moving only between their accommodation in Canberra and Parliament House under a similar form of exemption as those previously given to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Staff will only be considered as an exception in “exceptional circumstances”. The application form politicians and employees must fill out contains a number of personal questions, including what brand of vaccine they have received, how many doses and when. A spokesman for ACT Health said the issue was to ensure that the person had received one of the approved vaccines from the Therapeutic Goods Administration. However, the spokesman said the vaccine label would not affect its risk assessment. The decision to restrict or allow freedom based on vaccination status is somewhat at odds with the ACT government’s approach, as Prime Minister Andrew Barr has been adamant that he would not set up a two-class system when Canberra reopened. Asked about Mr Barr’s position, the spokesman said the comments had been in relation to the display of public spaces and access to services. The spokesman said parliamentary meetings remained a “high-risk” position due to the large number of people gathered from across the country, including COVID hotspots. The presence of Canberra-based staff in the House of Commons also increased the risk of transfer to the local community. The Canberra Times understands that the new guidelines have created confusion among parliamentarians. At least one fully vaccinated Sydney MP from a low-case voter has chosen to stay home because they could not get immediate clarification from ACT Health on what restrictions they would be subject to in Canberra. MORE COVID-19 NEWS: The guidelines create a gray area for people traveling from places that have COVID-19 cases but in very low numbers, e.g. In parts of regional Victoria and NSW. The ACT spokeswoman said that if a fully vaccinated person arrived from an area with active cases, the risk assessment would be based on their movement in the community over the previous fourteen days. Whether they had been in contact with a positive cause or participated in an exposure site, it would be taken into account, she said. Canberra’s lockdown is set to lift on October 15, meaning restaurants and bars will be open with reduced capacity in time for the start of the meeting period. The ACT Health spokeswoman said politicians and staff would be required to abide by the terms of their exemptions, meaning that even those who could skip quarantine would be barred from entering hospitality sites. She said the new guidelines were being tested as part of an “evolving process” around the assessment and revision of travel arrangements as Canberra begins to reopen. All other travelers from NSW and Victoria require permission to enter ACT and must be isolated for 14 days upon arrival.


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