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ACT COVID measures could be eased early

Some COVID-19 restrictions in the ACT could be rolled back earlier than anticipated due to increasing vaccine rates.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said parts of the last stages in Canberra’s COVID road map could be brought forward a few weeks. They were initially slated to be eased from November 26.

Those changes would see density limits decrease, with caps on household gatherings also scrapped.

“We’ll be looking at the November settings earlier than anticipated,” Mr Barr said.

“We’ll have another look in a couple of weeks and I think people can expect if we continue on the current trajectory we can bring things forward.”

The ACT on Wednesday reached the 90 per cent fully vaccinated rate for residents aged 12 and over.

Mr Barr indicated Canberra was on track to get to 99 per cent fully vaccinated by the end of November.

Nearly one week after retail was able to reopen to the public, the ACT economy is showing signs of recovery.

Mr Barr said retail spending was 20 per cent above levels seen during the same period in 2019.

At the peak of the lockdown, spending levels were down by 18 per cent compared with two years ago.

“That’s a 40 per cent turnaround in spending, and there’s been a lot of pent-up demand and money being spent,” Mr Barr said.

Restrictions are due to be eased again this Friday, with mandates on face masks outdoors scrapped and household gathering limits doubling from five to 10.

Density limits at cafes, restaurants and pubs will increase, while cinemas, museums, zoos and entertainment venues will be allowed to reopen.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said visitor restrictions at the city’s hospitals would be lifted.

Patients will now be allowed one visitor per day.

The territory’s chief health officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said quarantine rules would also change from November 1, in line with the resumption of open travel between NSW and Victoria.

Casual contacts of COVID cases will no longer need to undergo quarantine if they are fully vaccinated, but will still need to isolate until they receive a negative test result.

For close contacts, quarantine times have been halved from 14 to seven days, with a negative test needed on day six.

Dr Coleman said the number of cases in the ACT was falling, with 131 infections this week compared to 230 the week before.

The five-day average for cases now sits at just over 10, after a peak of 40 at the beginning of the month.

Of all cases since the start of the outbreak, 68 per cent were unvaccinated.

The ACT registered 10 new infections on Wednesday, with 11 coronavirus patients in hospital.

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