The ACT’s COVID-19 border restrictions will remain in place over Christmas, despite some softening of travel rules within Sydney.
- All travellers who have been in Sydney, the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains or Wollongong must isolate themselves for 14 days if they enter the ACT
- Acting Health Minister Chris Steel says the border restrictions are unlikely to be relaxed until next year
- A record number of Canberrans were tested for coronavirus yesterday, though all results were negative
Health authorities decided against relaxing the ACT’s rules for travellers who have been in coronavirus hot spots after the New South Wales Government announced another eight new cases today.
Acting ACT Health Minister Chris Steel said he realised the decision would be a blow to many Canberrans.
“I know that this will be disappointing news for many people who wanted to see family and friends over the Christmas period,” he said.
“The reality is the virus and the pandemic are far from over, and the virus still poses a risk to the Canberra community.
“We need to take what actions we can to help reduce the risks of transmission of COVID-19.
“We’ve been through this earlier this year and, once again, Canberrans are responding incredibly well to health directions that we’ve put in place.”
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ACT Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman’s public health order came into effect on Monday, as governments across the country imposed travel limits to protect against the growing COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney’s northern beaches.
The restrictions mean anyone who was in the Greater Sydney region, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast or the Wollongong area on or after December 21 need to isolate themselves for 14 days if they enter Canberra.
The order also applies to people who were in the northern beaches on or after December 11.
The affected regions are shown in the map above (the northern beaches are marked in orange).
Border controls likely to stay until the new year
NSW health authorities are aware of 97 active cases of coronavirus linked to the so-called Avalon cluster on Sydney’s northern beaches.
The state has not imposed travel restrictions on residents who live outside the northern beaches, though it has advised them against unnecessary travel.
However, Mr Steel said the ACT’s border restrictions effectively barring anyone except for ACT residents from entering Canberra would likely stay in place for at least another week despite the “encouraging” developments in NSW.
“While we do not have any exact date on what the travel restrictions will end, it is likely that these restrictions will remain in place until at least New Year’s Day,” he said.
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Mr Steel said Dr Coleman had considered a range of factors before opting to keep the restrictions in place, including the number of active cases in NSW, the volume of traffic between the two jurisdictions, the degree of community transmission, testing rates and the NSW community’s compliance with health orders.
Mr Steel also warned non-Canberrans who had been in the nominated hot spots to avoid coming to the city unless they had to.
“If you are not an ACT resident and from these [affected] areas, our message is clear: do not travel to the ACT,” he said.
Police are checking on motorists entering the ACT via the Federal Highway.(ACT News: Isaac Nowroozi)
ACT police officers stopped about 2,700 vehicles near the Canberra border on Tueday to ensure motorists were aware of and complying with the travel restrictions.
Health authorities say about 300 people from the nominated areas entered the ACT this week and are now undergoing their mandatory fortnight of isolation.
More than 1,300 Canberrans have also been tested for coronavirus at the city’s testing sites in the past 24 hours the highest number of tests carried out in the ACT since the pandemic began.
All tests were negative. The ACT currently has one active case a woman who returned from overseas and tested positive while in hotel quarantine.
Few exemptions to ACT quarantine rules
ACT Health says all travellers who enter the territory from one of the affected areas must get tested for coronavirus and isolate themselves for 14 days from the time they were last in the area.
However, authorities will exempt people from these rules in limited circumstances, such as if they are:
- unaccompanied children
- non-Canberrans who want to leave the ACT immediately to return home
- people who need urgent medical treatment
- facing “highly exceptional compassionate circumstances”, such as visiting a dying relative
Travellers who came to Canberra directly from Sydney airport, and did not stop elsewhere in Sydney, do not need to quarantine.
An exemption will also be granted to travellers from the affected areas who want to travel through Canberra en route to another part of NSW, so long as they do not leave their vehicle while they are in the ACT.
However, ACT Health says it will not allow people to avoid quarantine simply because they want to spend time with family, they tested negative for COVID-19, or because they only spent a “short time” in the affected areas.
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