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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Quarantine ends for hundreds in Canberra as NSW hotspot list changes

Hundreds of people who were in quarantine in the ACT after visiting COVID-affected areas of NSW resumed their normal lives this afternoon.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman has amended the ACT Public Health Direction to remove the Central Coast, Wollongong, and some areas of Greater Sydney – Campbelltown, Wollondilly, Penrith, and the Blue Mountains – from the list as of 3pm today.

People in quarantine in the ACT from these areas no longer need to quarantine. ACT Health informed them of this change via SMS and email. This represents a 75% reduction in the number of people in quarantine who have come from NSW.

However, 11 Local Government Areas in western and south-western areas of Greater Sydney and the Northern Beaches remain on the Public Health Direction list:

  • Northern Beaches
  • Blacktown City
  • Burwood
  • Canada Bay City
  • Canterbury-Bankstown
  • Cumberland
  • Fairfield City
  • Inner West
  • Liverpool City
  • Paramatta City
  • Strathfield Municipality

“These 11 areas … still pose a risk to the ACT, as we are still continuing to see cases pop up in these areas in NSW,” Dr Coleman said. “We still need to have some of the travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in effect.”

ACT residents and non-residents who have been in these LGAs at any time in the past 14 days must still complete their two-week quarantine period. They will also receive an SMS from ACT Health with advice.

“I understand that people who have been in those NSW COVID-affected areas still on the list are likely to be very disappointed,” Dr Coleman said.

“We all understand how disruptive public health measures can be, but they are in place to support the health of the broader community, your own health, and the health of your family and friends…

“This is how we are going to prevent seeding of the coronavirus into the ACT.”

ACT residents who have been in these areas can return to the ACT, but need to notify ACT Health of their intention to return via an online declaration form, and enter quarantine for 14 days.

Non-ACT residents are legally not permitted to enter the ACT without a valid exemption. If people who have been in these areas in the last 14 days need to travel to the ACT for extraordinary circumstances, they need to apply for an exemption at least three days beforehand. People who have applied for an exemption who have indicated they have been in the areas that are no longer COVID-19 affected areas will receive an email from ACT Health.

Dr Coleman said that while removing some areas from the Public Health Direction was a positive step forward, it was not a sign to start lowering our guard.

“Although the situation in NSW has stabilised, there remain some areas that continue to see cases where NSW has been unable to detect a source or link to a known infection,” Dr Coleman said.

“While NSW continues to get on top of these clusters, these areas still pose a high enough risk to the ACT to retain the existing travel and quarantine requirements for anyone coming from these areas. We also urge people from these areas to not travel to the ACT at this time.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and work with our NSW counterparts.”

Travel restrictions will remain in place for another week; Dr Coleman will reassess the situation on 19 January.

“Although we currently have no active cases in the ACT, it’s vital that we remain vigilant to respond to any changes to our situation should it arise,” Dr Coleman said. “As a community, our best defence against COVID-19 is still to physically distance from other groups whenever possible; practise good hand and respiratory hygiene; stay home if you are unwell; and get tested if you experience any symptoms of COVID-19.”

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr advised: “If we all assumed we carry the virus, and behaved accordingly, and reduced the risk of us personally spreading it to our close partner, to our family, to our friends; if we behave in that way as individuals in whatever setting – whether that’s at work, whether that’s travelling – there’s less likelihood of the virus spreading.”

Dr Coleman thanked all those who have been in quarantine for complying with the requirements and working closely with ACT Health to keep the community safe.

Everyone is advised to continue to monitor NSW Health if they have been to a COVID-19 affected area in NSW, and follow their advice.

For more information, visit:  https://www.covid19.act.gov.au/community/travel

GREATER BRISBANE TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

Travel restrictions were removed for the Greater Brisbane area yesterday, reducing the number of people in quarantine in the ACT from 7,500 on Monday morning to 2,600 this morning.

However, one case has been reported recently connected to the hotel worker who has the UK strain of COVID-19.

Dr Coleman said anyone who has recently returned from Greater Brisbane should remain alert, and check the Queensland Health website daily.

People identified as a close contact by Queensland Health, or who have been to any of the contact tracing locations, need to follow Queensland Health’s advice immediately, and contact ACT Health on 6207 7244. 

Dr Coleman also urged the public to be vigilant for symptoms of COVID-19, and to get tested if any symptoms developed, no matter how mild.

HOW CORONAVIRUS IS AFFECTING THE ECONOMY

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said it was “incredibly tough” for businesses that relied on tourism. “But the fact of life is that the virus is spread by the movement of people, and that is essentially what tourism is about.”

Mr Barr said there were a range of government support programs available for particular industry sectors. At the same time, the ACT was starting to see what economists call a substitution effect – people were not spending in one area, but spending more in another area.

“It’s hard to get a booking at a restaurant at the moment; expenditure in department stores, on clothing, on homewares, on home maintenance, has really increased significantly because people have not had the opportunity to travel. So the money they were spending on tourism and leisure, they’re spending in other areas – which means that the government response in terms of supporting industry sectors needs to be more nuanced and more targeted at this point.”

CONFIRMED CASES UPDATE

There have been no new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the ACT in the past 24 hours, leaving the ACT’s total at 118. There are no active cases in the ACT.

A total of 115 cases have recovered from COVID-19 in the ACT.

There are no COVID-19 patients in Canberra hospitals.

The ACT has recorded three deaths.

The number of negative tests recorded in the ACT is now 148,542.

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