Residents of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), home to the nation’s capital city, have been given the green light to visit a further 26 New South Wales (NSW) postcode areas after a relaxing of coronavirus quarantine requirements.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has announced the changes, which include Batemans Bay and Perisher Valley, will come into effect from midday on Saturday.
Travel without the need to quarantine for 14 days on return is now permitted across 53 NSW postcodes.
“As more people get fully vaccinated in regional NSW and the ACT, Canberrans can expect that travel restrictions will be relaxed further,” Chief Minister Barr said.
“This is a balancing act. Canberrans didn’t go through nine weeks of lockdown only to see a spike in cases.”
The ACT, however, has flagged it could still impose restrictions on Canberrans travelling to localised COVID-19 hotspots, even when state borders are fully open to the national capital.
While it’s likely that travel to all of NSW will be possible by Nov. 1, Barr has said localised travel restrictions could still be imposed, should an area get a high number of cases.
“We reserve that right, as we did prior to our lockdown, to identify an area in NSW that is high risk and have specific arrangements for that area,” Barr said.
But he said his expectation, given high vaccination rates, was that travel would be a lot freer after Nov. 1.
The ACT marked its first full day out of lockdown on Friday, after more than two months of residents being subject to stay at home orders.
Long lines were seen outside Canberra’s hairdressers, while cafes, restaurants, and pubs were packed.
However, retail will have to wait for another two weeks to be able to welcome customers back in store, with only click and collect options or booked visits available.
A further easing of restrictions will be made on Oct. 29, when the ACT is expected to be above 80 percent of its eligible residents being fully vaccinated.
It will be shortly after that on Nov. 1 that free travel between the ACT and NSW is expected to take place.
Barr said talks would also take place between the ACT and NSW governments on how people coming into Sydney from overseas would be able to return to Canberra.
“We need to resolve with NSW what transit arrangements are, once they have landed in Sydney,” he said.
The resumption of international travel into Sydney from November is only expected to be for Australian citizens and permanent residents.
The first full day out of lockdown for the ACT saw 35 new cases of COVID in Canberra, along with the death of a woman in her 70s at an aged care facility in the city’s north.
Vaccination rates in the ACT have reached more than 99 per cent for first doses and about 75 percent for second doses.
By Andrew Brown