The Australian Capital Territory is enforcing its first mandatory stay-home order since April 2020.
New coronavirus restrictions are being imposed in Australia’s federal capital to prevent a potential outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant. After convening an emergency cabinet meeting of the ACT government this morning, Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced a snap seven-day lockdown taking effect from 5 p.m. today. “This is the most serious public health risk that we have faced in the territory this year,” Barr said. The decision was made following the discovery of one new case of Covid-19 who had been infectious in the community since Sunday. The source of infection is currently under investigation and remains unknown, but health authorities suspect it may be linked to the ongoing outbreak in Greater Sydney.
Stay-home orders and mask mandates will apply to all 430,000 residents of Canberra. Permissible reasons for going out include essential work, medical care, vaccination, shopping for groceries or other essential supplies, and up to one hour of outdoor exercise. Restaurants and cafés will only be able to offer takeout, while retail stores must be temporary closed; public schools will remain open for children of essential workers. Barr has urged residents to stay within their local areas and avoid visiting family during lockdown. Although the entirety of New South Wales has been declared a Covid-19 affected area, those living in communities just outside the ACT’s borders will still be able to travel between their homes and the capital for essential purposes.
Up until yesterday, Canberra had managed to avoid the hard lockdowns imposed in other cities across the country since the early months of the pandemic. It has been more than a year since the territory recorded a locally acquired coronavirus infection, and the latest announcement breaks a 105-day streak of zero cases. The ACT has posted one of the highest vaccination rates of all Australian states and territories. To date, more than half of Canberrans have received a first dose, and about 28 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, though Barr added, “That is still nowhere near where we need to be.”