ACT eases restrictions in time for summer

·2-min read

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has forecast a bumper summer for Canberrans, as the capital moves to ease some of its last remaining COVID-19 restrictions ahead of schedule.

As the ACT recorded 18 new cases on Tuesday, the territory government brought forward the easing of restrictions by two weeks due to Canberra's high vaccination rate of more than 95 per cent.

From Friday, household visitor and outdoor gathering limits will be scrapped, while entertainment venues can open at 100 per cent capacity.

Density rules will be eased to one person per two square metres for retail and hospitality, while swimming pools and cinemas can also ease restrictions.

Nightclubs will be able to reopen with dancing and drinking while standing up also permitted.

Face masks will only be mandated at high-risk indoor settings such as hospitals, aged care facilities and schools.

The government will still encourage Canberrans to wear masks indoors in crowded situations.

Mr Barr said there would be a large economic recovery across Canberra, driven by a boom in retail spending and tourism in the weeks ahead.

"We now have a lot to look forward to," Mr Barr said.

"We're going to see very strong economic outcomes. It's terrific to be able to stand here today and say that all that hard work and community effort has result in an outcome like this."

Chief health officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said weekly cases have risen from 61 to 86, driven by outbreaks in 13 schools in the territory.

The school outbreaks have also seen the median age of new cases plummet from 27 to 15.

In an epidemiological update, the chief health officer said more than two-thirds of cases in the past seven days were aged under 19.

Of the total number of cases in hospital since the Delta outbreak started, 95 per cent were not fully vaccinated.

There is now one case in hospital, in intensive care and on a ventilator.

Dr Coleman said Canberra was in uncharted territory due to the ACT having a higher vaccine rate than what was forecast by modellers.

"None of the modelling has covered this, so we will do better than the model scenarios we have seen," she said.

In the past week, 42 per cent of cases were under 12, while 50 children under 16 were being cared for as part of the COVID care at home program.

Dr Coleman said the ACT was ready to roll out the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five to 11 when it was approved by medical regulators.

"We have several options available to us, depending on whether (approval) is in school holidays or in school term, and we can roll that out quickly," she said.

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