The ACT's peak business lobby says the Barr government needs to be more transparent about the grounds for the territory's coronavirus restrictions, amid growing concern that some decisions are being made arbitrarily.
Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Graham Catt said his members were crying out for more clarity on the criteria used to determine if and when restrictions could be relaxed in the national capital.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman have defended their approach, insisting decisions made throughout the pandemic have been guided by health advice.
Dr Coleman said the government had put "enormous effort" into making sure businesses were kept up to date and could easily seek information amid the unfolding emergency.
Mr Barr will seek Dr Coleman's advice on Thursday before announcing whether to green light a further relaxing of coronavirus restrictions.
The move to the third stage in the territory's restriction's roadmap has been delayed twice after the emergence of new cases in the ACT and continued threat of transmission posed by the Victorian and NSW outbreaks.
The next stage on the path back to some degree of normality allows small venues to increase their capacity to 25 patrons, pokies to be switched on and strip clubs and brothels to reopen. Outdoor gatherings of 250 people would be allowed, while entertainment and sporting venues - such as Canberra Stadium - could be filled to 25 per cent of their capacity.
Mr Barr has already foreshadowed that any easing of restrictions are likely to be minor, conceding that it would be "very, very unlikely" that the crowd sizes envisaged under stage three would be allowed in the near future.
He said earlier this week that the "rollercoaster" of the past month of the pandemic had made it almost impossible to predict when it might be safe to allow larger gatherings.
Mr Catt said businesses broadly understood and accepted the initial decision to delay the easing of restrictions.
But more than three weeks on since the ACT recorded its most recent COVID-19 infection, Mr Catt said businesses wanted clarity on what would inform the decision to proceed with, or again pause, a lifting of restrictions.
He said the different rules in place across the country were causing frustration and confusion to local businesses, who were questioning why they were subject to restrictions when their interstate counterparts were able to trade more freely.
One example is the ACT's clubs, which have had to watch on as Canberrans cross the border to NSW venues amid the current ban on gaming machines in the territory.
"We certainty hear from members in some sectors that there seems to be no clear rationale behind why restrictions might be applied in a particular jurisdiction or in a particular industry setting and not in another," Mr Catt said.
"There is a growing sense in some sectors of frustration."
In a statement to The Canberra Times, Dr Coleman said she had explained in media conferences and public statements throughout the pandemic the factors which influenced the decisions on when and how to ease restrictions.
"To summarise, the public health evidence tells us that the movement and gathering of people who do not know each other present the greatest risk to outbreaks of an infectious disease like COVID-19," Dr Coleman said.
"As we ease restrictions, we see people moving about their daily lives more freely, and multiple social networks interacting more and in larger groups, and there is a cumulative public health risk that we need to consider carefully as we reopen businesses and facilities and recommence social and sporting activities.
"We also look closely at our ability to contact trace and how we would respond if there was a new case, or a cluster of cases, as we do not want outbreaks. This would see us needing to consider re-implementing certain restrictions in order to control the spread again, which we don't want to have to do."
Dr Coleman repeated that while the ACT remained in a strong position, the NSW outbreak remained a live threat. As such, any move to ease restrictions later this week would be done in a "cautious way".
Mr Barr said his government had relied on expert medical advice throughout the pandemic. He noted that the ACT's "measured approach" had meant it hasn't had to re-impose restrictions, as NSW, SA and, most severely Victoria, have done in recent weeks.
"In the ACT we have fared well so far, but you only have to look at the situation in Victoria and NSW to understand how quickly things can change," he said.
"The government is balancing the economic impacts, community expectations as well as the health advice.
"This isn't an easy process however the ACT's track record to date during the pandemic demonstrates that listening to the health advice will lower our public health risk and lead to better economic outcomes in the medium term."
Mr Barr has asked Sydneysiders not to travel to Canberra this week due to the ongoing threat of transmission in NSW.