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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Larger gatherings in Canberra as COVID restrictions set to ease

Fifty people in medium-sized venues, 200 in cinemas, larger outdoor gatherings and 50% capacity at large indoor and outdoor events will all come into effect across Canberra next Friday, providing local COVID numbers remain stable.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman announced today that from 9am Friday 9 October, all gatherings will increase to allow 200 people under the new COVID restrictions.

In a big boost for medium-sized hospitality venues, those with a total useable space between 101-200sqm will be allowed a maximum of 50 customers across their space.

It follows the move a fortnight ago to allow Canberra’s small hospitality venues with less than 100sqm floor space up to 25 customers.

Large venues such as Canberra Theatre and AIS Arena will be able to have ticketed and seated events up to 50% capacity up to 1,000 people.

The same numbers apply for enclosed outdoor venues with permanent tiered seating.

GIO Stadium and Manuka Oval will be allowed up to 50% capacity, which is, in effect, a little over the 9,600-strong crowd allowed to the Raiders’ NRL final to be played tomorrow.

Cinemas and movie theatres will be allowed to seat ticketed patrons up to 50% of capacity up to 200 people per theatre.

Between now and next Friday, Dr Coleman will also examine whether it’s possible to allow outdoor spaces to have one person per two metres, saying she was “very confident” it would be workable.

“This is as we move into spring and summer settings,” she said.

Standing up to take a drink at the pub is also under consideration “as we head into the summer season”, according to Dr Coleman, but said it was something “people can look forward to into the future” with no exact timeline given.

Improvements over the border help spur on decision

Dr Coleman said the changes in the move to Step 3.2 of Canberra’s Recovery Plan have come about due to “people doing the right thing” and improvements in NSW and Victoria’s case numbers.

NSW has as of today gone one week without a new locally acquired case of COVID-19, while community transmission in Victoria has dipped to daily numbers averaging below 20.

Dr Coleman said she did consider holding off on making the gatherings announcement until evaluating the local and NSW COVID situation post-school holidays.

“What has been reassuring in the last week is NSW numbers significantly down and remained down,” she said.

From next Friday, the new level of restrictions will be in place for four weeks before further easing of restrictions is examined, with the Chief Health Officer’s next formal “COVIDsafe checkpoint” scheduled for 6 November.

“We will need to assess the impact of the changes as well as any impact of the increase of people movement from school holidays at the end of next week,” Dr Coleman said.

She also encouraged Canberrans with symptoms to get tested as levels have slowly reduced daily to around 300-400.

“We’re not at dangerous levels by any step of the imagination … the national baseline is around one in 1,000 people, which we’re hovering around.”

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