The COVID-19 lockdown has ended in the ACT — here's what you can and can't do
Canberra, welcome to your first day out of COVID-19 lockdown.
After more than two months of restrictions sparked by the Delta outbreak, today marks the beginning of the territory's gradual reopening.
The ACT government has lifted the lockdown following strong community support for vaccines — Canberra is now on track to lead the world in vaccination coverage.
But as today's changes take effect — and indeed until the next "checkpoint" to further ease restrictions on October 29 is reached — that community support is still key.
Canberrans will be expected to maintain COVID-safe practices — masks are still mandatory both indoors and outdoors, unless you are eating or drinking.
And with contact tracing ongoing, the Check In CBR app still has to be used when out and about in the community.
This is no "freedom day", but a "gentle and measured" easing of restrictions.
So here's what you can and can't do from today:
Grab a seat at a pub or restaurant
While the ACT government is encouraging employees to still work from home if possible, lockdown means many businesses can become operational again.
Socialising in a venue — arguably one of the activities missed most by Canberrans — is one of the activities that's returning from today.
You can now enjoy meal, a coffee or a beer at a cafe, restaurant or pub.
Licensed venues, cafes and restaurants can now serve seated customers, with the option of indoor or outdoor service.
For indoor service, capacity limits have been set at one person per four square metres or 25 people — whichever is less.
For outdoors, the capacity is set at 50 people or one person per four square metres — again, whichever is less.
A venue cannot operate outdoor and indoor seating at the same time.
Some businesses have opted not to reopen yet as they assess the risks associated with seated service, while others have reported being booked out for the coming weeks.
While nightclubs cannot reopen fully, they are permitted to operate as a pub.
Call up five mates and invite them over
If your cooking skills improved during the long nights of lockdown, dinner parties are back on and it's your time to shine.
Five people are now permitted to visit another household.
And here's hoping the weather improves soon, because picnics are going to get a lot bigger — the capacity limit on outdoor gatherings has been extended to 25.
The reunions don't stop there, with aged care facilities now allowed to have guests — up to two vaccinated people are permitted to visit per day, per resident.
Celebrating a wedding also just got even better, with 25 people now allowed to attend the nuptials.
Fifty guests are permitted at a funeral.
Say goodbye to those lockdown locks (if you want to)
Some of us have embraced the shaggy chic look of lockdown — but not everyone is quite as content.
If you're in desperate need of a trim, a maximum of five clients are now permitted at one time at hairdressers, beauty and nail salons.
And if you'd like to pick up a pair of new shoes or try out a potential new car, now's your chance.
Both essential and non-essential retail businesses are permitted to have two people from the same household in their store at a time, by booked appointment.
Non-essential retail can also operate click and collect and click and delivery services.
Hit the gym or pool again
A variety of recreational activities will also return from today, with Canberrans able to get back to the gym, jump in the pool or go camping.
The following venues will be able to reopen with a capacity limit of 25 people or one person per four square metres, whichever is less:
- Swimming pools — just two swimmers per lane permitted;
- Bootcamps, outdoor sporting team training, gyms and fitness centres — but not for indoor classes or circuit sessions;
- Outdoor auctions, gambling venues, places of worship, outdoor tours and community centres;
- Campgrounds, accommodation and caravan parks;
- Outdoor play centres.
School's back … but not for all students
We can hear the sound of parents cheering already.
While Year 12 students have already returned to school to prepare for their AST exams, the education sector will begin a gradual return to the classroom for remaining students and staff starting from next week.
From Monday, year 11 students will dig out their uniforms and head back to on-campus learning.
From October 25, early childhood centres will reopen alongside pre-school to year 2, years 6, 9 and 10. Come November 1, it's years 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8's turn.
On Wednesday, the ACT government announced that a vaccine mandate would be introduced for some early childhood and primary school workers, to better protect those under the age of 12.
Under the mandate, workers must have received a first vaccine dose by November 1 and a second dose by November 29.
It applies to teachers, early childhood educators, learning and support staff, administrative staff, canteen workers and cleaners who are in direct contact with children, as well as allied health professionals who regularly attend relevant schools.
Exposure sites, quarantine rules to change
The public health directions around testing, isolation and quarantine remain just as important now that lockdown has lifted, health authorities have said.
But some changes to how ACT Health reports on exposure sites, and to quarantine rules, will come into effect today.
Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman announced on Wednesday that certain exposure sites will no longer be included on their public list, because they pose a low risk of infection.
These sites include takeaway cafes and restaurants; click and collect retail; pharmacies; contact with food delivery; and in some instances, venues where a customer has used self-service facilities like transport, playgrounds, sporting grounds, petrol stations and ATMs.
Dr Coleman also said secondary contacts of positive cases would no longer have to quarantine.
Travel still restricted, for now
Canberrans may be desperate to get away, but free travel to the NSW South Coast and Sydney remains off limits for now.
From today, the ACT government allows travel into 27 places within the ACT's border bubble with NSW for reasons like household visits, to access childcare or school, to attend a wedding or a funeral, and to work.
The border bubble was expanded earlier this week to include more communities — among them Cooma, Goulburn, Braidwood, Bombala and Jugiong.
ACT residents can travel within those selected border regions.
Overnight, NSW Health lifted their travel restrictions on the ACT.
They no longer consider Canberra an area of concern, and fully vaccinated people leaving the territory to enter NSW do not need to complete a declaration form, or follow stay-at-home rules.
Once in NSW, ACT residents will be subject to the same rules as regional NSW, which means they cannot yet enter Greater Sydney.
But there is a catch.
At the moment, the ACT government is still only allowing ACT residents to visit NSW postcodes within the border bubble.
That means ACT residents who have been out of the border bubble region will need to apply for an exemption before returning home, and quarantine for 14 days.
Keep getting tested, vaccinated
As life slowly becomes less restricted, people with symptoms of COVID-19 are being urged to still get tested to ensure they spend as little time infectious in the community as possible.
"Vaccination status makes no difference to you getting tested with symptoms into the future."
Case numbers are expected to climb, but it's not yet clear by how much.
With this in mind, the ACT government's messaging around vaccines hasn't abated.
More than 74 per cent of the territory's eligible residents are fully vaccinated against the virus, with the milestone of 99 per cent expected to be reached by the end of November.
But ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said yesterday that Canberrans must remain vigilant, to protect those who have not been vaccinated.
"With increased activity and interaction between people, risk and the chance of attracting the virus increases," Mr Barr said.
"And this is especially the case for the 90,000 eligible Canberrans who have only had one dose of the vaccine and the 70,000 children under 12, who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
Walk-in appointments are now open at the AIS Arena mass vaccination hub until October 24, and Medicare cards aren't required.