‘Freedom day’ for Australia’s most vaxxed city

The ACT’s nine week lockdown officially came to an end at 12am on Friday with pubs, restaurants, gyms, entertainment centres, sporting venues and hairdressers all reopening.Canberra is set to claim the crown as the world’s most vaccinated city next month.By November, almost 100 per cent of Canberrans are expected to be double-dosed.Portugal’s capital city Lisbon and the city-state of Singapore are currently believed to have the highest double-dose vaccination rates in the world. 86 and 80 per cent of the cities’ populations have been fully vaccinated respectively. “The current evidence suggests that the ACT will be one of the most vaccinated cities in the world,” ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said on Wednesday.“We expect to be at around 99 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated by the end of November. It’s a testament to ACT residents and their willingness to protect themselves, their family and their community.”But a high vaccination rate has not meant a high level of freedom for ACT residents. Mr Barr has taken a much more cautious approach to “freedom day” than the ACT’s close neighbour NSW.While NSW residents only have to wear a mask while indoors, Canberrans are still required to wear face masks both indoors and outdoors, unless they are eating or drinking. There is no cap on numbers at hospitality venues in NSW, but ACT cafes and restaurants are limited to 25 people or one person per four square metres – whichever is lesser.“Today is a gentle step forward. The pandemic isn‘t over,” Mr Barr told the ABC on Friday.“Right now, I would urge caution. There are a range of things you can do today that you wouldn’t yesterday and people will be doing that. But do so in a safe way.”In keeping with the NSW government’s public health distinction between the regions and Greater Sydney, the ACT government will allow some travel between Canberra and regional NSW, but not Sydney.NSW Residents living within a radius of around 150km of the ACT will be permitted to enter the jurisdiction without an exemption and without having to quarantine for work, school, university, essential shopping, healthcare, and to visit friends and family. ACT residents will only be permitted to enter regional NSW without an exemption for work, childcare, school, animal care, weddings or funerals at this stage.Mr Barr said the jurisdiction’s public health restrictions would continue to evolve as vaccination rates in both NSW and the ACT increased.“Although (the ACT’s travel bubble) won’t be extending to greater Sydney at this time … That’s going to change in time as well,” he said.“I think it can be done safely and in an enduring way in a few weeks’ time once the vaccination rates have increased further.”The Chief Minister cautioned that while the ACT’s vaccination rates were very impressive, Canberrans enjoying their new freedoms should still be mindful that a quarter of the population is yet to be protected by their second dose. “There‘s still about 90,000 people who need to get their second dose. They mostly are under 40 and that is what the next two or three weeks is about,” Mr Barr said.“Our number one motto through all of this is that a fully vaccinated Canberra is a safer Canberra and we are well on our way.”A full list of Canberra’s updated public health restrictions can be found on the ACT government website.

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