Changes on business closures, quarantine requirements

By Finn McHugh

Businesses will not necessarily be forced to close if visited by a COVID-positive person from the end of the week.

In an announcement reflecting the territory's high vaccination uptake, ACT chief health officer Kerryn Coleman revealed housemates of close contacts will also no longer need to quarantine from Friday.

The ACT was set to emerge from lockdown on Friday as Canberrans returned to restaurants, cafes, and pubs at limited capacity. And with infections set to spike in the aftermath, Dr Coleman said it would not be "possible or even necessary" to trace each case.

"We know that we're not going to be able to stop all transmission. We want to stop the transmission that is most likely to occur, and where it's going to occur in those places where it's going to have a big impact," she said.

Venues visited for a short period by a COVID-positive non-customer - including takeaway cafes and restaurants, and click-and-collect retail - will now be considered low risk, and generally not listed as exposure sites.

The move will mean businesses will not always close if visited by a COVID-positive person. Dr Coleman said whether an entire venue closed would be assessed by a range of factors, including its adherence to COVID-19 guidelines.

Around 20,000 ACT residents were plunged into quarantine at the beginning of its latest outbreak. Dr Coleman described that as the "absolutely maximum number" and said the territory's surging vaccination rate in the interim would avoid a repeat.

"These outcomes mean less time in quarantine for our community and less disruption for our businesses, but we all have a part to play moving forward," she said.

That included Canberrans experiencing symptoms, whether vaccinated or not, continuing to present for testing immediately and following normal hygiene practices, she said.

Dr Coleman said the strategy would allow authorities to target their response, with those deemed to be at higher risk set to be notified.

"Notification moving forward means: don't just blow it off, this is actually really important," she said.

Requirements for quarantine will also be eased, meaning only those who test positive and their close contacts will be required to undergo 14 days in isolation. The housemates of close contacts will no longer need to join them.

"We will still provide advice that close contacts should maintain separation from other household members as best as they can," Dr Coleman said.

She revealed how the rules will apply to schools was being worked through.

Chief health officer Kerryn Coleman has announced adjustments to the ACT's COVID-19 response. Picture: Karleen Minney

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