Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

Changes are expected to ACT rules for tracking contacts, boundary bubble


Health authorities are expected to announce changes before Canberra’s lockdown is lifted on Friday.


2021-10-12T05: 30: 00 + 11: 00

ACT’s rules for contact tracking are set to be revised with relaxed rules for casual contact settings and focus on quarantine of positive cases and close contacts.

The ACT is also expected to expand its border bubble to allow for a permanent exemption for multiple NSW postcodes, but people will only be allowed to travel between jurisdictions for significant reasons.

NSW celebrated its first major easing of restrictions on Monday, prompting Goulburn and Jindabyne to urge the ACT government to restart free travel with regional territories.

Eleven people spent their entire period of infection in quarantine and nine spent time in the community while being contagious and posing a risk of transmission to others.

There are 18 patients at Canberra’s hospitals with COVID-19. Seven are in intensive care and six require ventilation.

Authorities are preparing Canberra to get out of the lockdown and preparing test sites in anticipation of greater demand due to increased exposure sites.

“We expect there to be additional requirements for testing,” said Prime Minister Andrew Barr.

“But we have the capacity to bend it either at our existing centers or to do pop-up testing in certain contexts.”

To curb this demand, efforts are also being made to relax test, tracking, isolation and quarantine arrangements.

“There will be absolute clarity about who should be quarantined and when,” Barr said.

“The bottom line, if you carry the virus and you’re a case, then you’ll still have to quarantine, but there will definitely be changes around random contact settings.”

Fully vaccinated NSW residents in ACT border towns enjoyed new liberties on Monday, with many flocking out to eat and be clipped.

“I understand that NSW will aggressively enforce their rules, so residents of ACT would be fined heavily if they had to cross the border into NSW, if you are particularly unvaccinated,” Barr said.

Fully vaccinated residents living in border towns, e.g. Queanbeyan, but working in the ACT, are also not allowed to enjoy the freedom of their state as they will still be subject to home bookings.

Residents of border towns will also not be able to go out to a restaurant or cafe in ACT on Friday, as people living in exempt NSW postcodes will still only be allowed to enter the territory for significant reasons until at least the end of the month.

But Mr Barr said the border bubble would be widened.

“The reasons for travel are not going to change dramatically on Friday,” he said.

“The number of postcodes in the Canberra region will increase and so will the arrangements for the last two weeks of October.”

Goulburn Mayor Bob Kirk hopes the regional city will be included in the expanded bubble. He said its exclusion in the bubble had been very inconvenient for Goulburn residents and had caused delays in getting COVID vaccines.

“Many of our people work [in Canberra], of course. Many of our people travel for medical purposes, many of our people go there for shopping, educational needs and all that stuff, “Kirk said.

“It’s very much the hub of the South East region. And the fact that we’re kind of locked out is just a line on a map, as far as we’re concerned, it’s just the next town on the road.

“A line on a map does not make Goulburn or Canberra people more of a problem or health problem for one or the other than elsewhere.”

“There have been a lot of inconveniences. There were a lot of conjectures in the early stages when people who had appointments to get in there for the second COVID socket were not able to go and get the second COVID socket. And that there was not a hub here in Goulburn.

“As for the COVID vaccination, it put such a stump in the case for us.”

Head of the Jindabyne Business Chamber Olivier Kapetanakos said the pandemic had proved that the Canberrans had played a major role in the Snowy Mountains tourism economy.

“Because of the high vaccination rates in Canberra, and because Canberra is such an important part of the economic viability of the snow-capped mountains, it just makes a lot of sense,” he said.

“Medical advice [is] that if you have been double-vaccinated, the chances of getting COVID are significantly less. And if you catch it, it has a lower impact on you. The risk can certainly not be high to open up the borders.

“What we have learned from the pandemic is that Canberra plays a significant role through our tourism economy. We have always thought it was Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane, but Canberra plays a huge role for us.”

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COVID test site.  Photo: Keegan Carroll

COVID test site. Photo: Keegan Carroll

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