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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 October 2021) . . Page.. 2747 ..

Our pathway forward is a phased approach that balances the risk across the entire economy and community. We are conscious of the fact that there will still be many people in our community who are not fully vaccinated, or who are not able to be vaccinated at all, and we still believe in protecting those amongst us who are most vulnerable. There are a number of considerations that guide our approach to easing restrictions including, our health system capacity; our ability to test, trace, isolate and quarantine; our vaccination coverage; the case numbers; levels of community transmission; the proportion of cases infectious in the community; the regional situation; and how well the community and businesses are complying with restrictions.

Our pathway forward seeks to implement the national plan to transition Australia’s national response to COVID-19 as agreed by national cabinet, and broadly aligns with reopening roadmaps announced by New South Wales and Victoria, which are also reopening in a phased manner, with capacity limits during the transition phases of their respective plans.

It is difficult to predict the future with so many competing factors to consider. If the situation worsens in our region we may need to delay easing of restrictions or tighten restrictions again. That is why the pathway forward will occur in a staged manner to reduce the risk of a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases prompting the need to re-impose stricter public health social measure on businesses and the community.

I acknowledge that the lockdown has been difficult for the community. The ACT government is aware that the first phase of reopening with respect to hospitality businesses, for example, may not be viable for all businesses. However, the government has decided to allow those parts of the industry considered to be lower risk to open up as soon as possible while continuing to provide economic support for businesses during the transition stages where they cannot viably operate.

Our decisions balance the risk to the entire community and to the broader economy and are based on the Chief Health Officer’s public health advice and the national plan. Assessment of changes to public health social measures will consider vaccination coverage of both the general population and vulnerable cohorts, and I hope that in the very near future the ACT will be in a much better position to further relax restrictions in a safe manner commensurate with vaccination coverage and the COVID-19 situation here in the ACT and surrounding area. We are working to reopen in a gradual way so that our summer period and beyond can be the least restrictive possible.

When considering changes to the public health direction, there is a clear focus on the following principles: protection of public health; measures to get people back to work as soon as possible; and measures to support mental health and wellbeing. I know Canberrans are looking forward to spending more time with family and friends; however, I remind everyone that we are still in lockdown for the next week and I urge people to follow the health directions to reduce the risk of further transmission of the virus.

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