Dates set in ACT and NSW to ease rules but uncertainty for domestic borders

By Jackson Graham

Monday September 27, 2021

Andrew Barr
ACT chief minister Andrew Barr. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The ACT will end its lockdown by mid-October if its COVID-19 risk remains stable while NSW is set to start lifting restrictions around the same time. 

The leaders are raising hopes for a “more normal” Christmas while a number of COVID-free states remain cautious, possibly guarding their borders beyond then. 

The ACT government expects to end the territory’s lockdown from October 15, when it predicts 80% of eligible residents will be fully vaccinated.

The milestone will allow five visitors to enter homes at the same time, 20 people to gather outdoors, and cafes and restaurants to serve 25 seated patrons indoors or 50 outdoors with distancing limits applying. 

“The ACT’s pathway forward, announced today, will make sure we make a gradual and safer step towards a better Christmas and summer holidays for all Canberrans,” ACT chief minister Andrew Barr said on Monday.

The restrictions would then ease further on October 29. 

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian flagged the state’s 70% double-dose target would be met by October 11 and its 80% vaccination target about a fortnight later. 

At the 80% mark, people will be able to travel freely throughout NSW, 10 visitors can enter homes, and people can consider international travel. 

Berejiklian said people who weren’t vaccinated would have to wait at least four or five weeks — when the state reaches 90% vaccination coverage — before being able to enjoy the same freedoms as unvaccinated people.

“Today is a very disappointing day for those who are not vaccinated,” she said.

International arrivals will return to about 3500 a week at the 80% target but Berekjiklian said she was open to discussions with the prime minister to increase the number. 

“If fully vaccinated Aussies are coming home there’s no reason why we even need to have a cap up to a particular number,” she said.  

Federal tourism minister Dan Tehan said last week the government was working to have international borders open by Christmas at the latest. 

The federal government is also pushing for state borders to open by Christmas yet three states remain unenthusiastic about the time frame. 

Prime minister Scott Morrision said on Sunday that once the nation reached an 80% double-dose target, Australians would need to live with COVID-19.  

“Once you get to 80% of your population that’s vaccinated, well, it’s very clear; I can’t see any reason why Australians should be kept from each other,” Morrison said. 

“That puts a heavy, heavy responsibility on those who would seek to prevent that from happening.” 

He said he wanted Australians to get “their lives back” for Christmas. “That’s a gift I’d like to see us give,” Morrison said.

The national roadmap says lockdowns will end once 80% of people are immunised. 

But Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia have not committed to flinging borders open to states with outbreaks when the target is met. 

Queensland’s deputy premier Steven Miles was unappreciative of the Christmas timeframe, telling reporters that Morrison should instead focus on the outbreaks in other states.

“I don’t think Queenslanders will want to let COVID in for Christmas if we don’t have it but New South Wales still does,” Miles said.

“So they’re the considerations that we will need to make, because we are in the very fortunate position of not having the virus here.” 

WA will mark Victoria with an “extreme” risk classification from Wednesday, as it has done for NSW, making extraordinary circumstances as the only reason for travel from the state.  

Premier Mark McGowan said earlier this month a date will be set for borders to reopen to NSW and Victoria in coming months.

“I’m not going to set an artificial deadline by Christmas,” McGowan told Sunrise.

Tasmania’s public health director, Mark Veitch, said this month he had a preference for the state’s vaccination coverage reaching closer to 90% before domestic borders opened.  

Victoria will hit its 80% first dose vaccination coverage on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the number of people able to dine outdoors in regional areas will climb to 30 and some contactless recreational activities can return in Melbourne. 

The government has announced grants worth between $4000 and $10,000 for community pharmacies and GPs in Victoria to deliver COVID-19 vaccines in 11 key local government areas. 


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