Statement: ACT Chief Minister

Released 23/03/2020

The ACT Government will be enacting directions on the temporary closure of non-essential activities and businesses to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This reflects the decision made at National Cabinet on non-essential service closures and maintains consistency with the NSW approach. It is important that the rules are the same throughout the Canberra region.

The ACT supports the National Cabinet model, and we agree that a level of consistency across jurisdictions will allow the National Cabinet to provide the most effective public health message to Australians.

However, this is a constantly evolving situation. Within the National Cabinet framework, states and territories will occasionally need to make decisions based on their own local circumstances.

For the ACT, an important guide to our local decision making is the need for rules to be the same throughout the Canberra region, particularly in relation to the closure of businesses and activities. A business that is allowed to continue operating in the ACT, but not in NSW due to the risk to public health would be problematic and could significantly impact on public health.

Therefore, the ACT will continue to work closely with NSW in responding to this public health crisis.

In regards to the shutting down of non-essential services to protect public health, the ACT and NSW will be aligned.

For the ACT, this includes:

  • Pubs & Registered Clubs
  • Gyms & indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings & places of worship (excluding small weddings and funerals that comply with the 4m2 rules)

Any businesses and places of work that do not fall in this list may continue at this point. However, just because certain industries and businesses can currently continue operation, it does not mean it is business as usual.

Our community must now adapt across all environments, including the workplace, to help slow the spread of the virus. If we don’t, more onerous and restrictive measures will be introduced.

Physical distancing measures and frequent hand washing must be strongly encouraged across all workplaces and business owners must take necessary measures to ensure their employees are closely following these measures.

Any business that can transition to virtual work arrangements should start that process as soon as possible.

As outlined yesterday, ACT public schools will still be able to safely receive and provide learning for the children of parents and carers engaged in essential services (such as our healthcare sector) who are unable to care for their children at home, as well as vulnerable children and those with additional needs. No child will be turned away from school. Our position is again broadly consistent with decisions made in NSW.

From this week, the ACT is moving towards a program of alternative teaching models from term 2. Government schools are well placed for this shift, after the Government invested significantly in devices for students and digital capability over recent years. Pupil free days will start in the ACT from Tuesday 24 March.

How the nation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic will profoundly change the way of life we have come to expect. The decisions being made at the National Cabinet level, and at the State and Territory level, are not easy. There are often no risk-free responses, and there are many competing priorities to balance.

- Statement ends -

Section: Andrew Barr, MLA | Media Releases

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