Cafes, restaurants and bars could open their doors to more people from Friday, under easing coronavirus restrictions.
From 9am, smaller venues could have a maximum of 25 patrons inside at one time, regardless of the size of the venue.
Venues that want to have more than 25 guests at once will still need to abide by the one person per four square metre rule.
The 25-person limit excludes staff members working inside the business at the time.
Smaller venues had previously said they were limited in the number of people they could have inside their business at one time.
The changes were brought in as part of the easing of coronavirus restrictions in the ACT, as Canberra marked 10 weeks since the last recorded case of COVID-19 in the territory.
However, health authorities have said the changes were only small and that the ACT would remain at level 3.1 of coronavirus restrictions.
The increase to 25 people at a time for smaller businesses was set to come into effect in July, but a spike in coronavirus cases in Victoria, which led to a further five cases being detected in the ACT, meant those changes were pushed back until September.
Health authorities said they were monitoring the virus situation in NSW and Victoria closely before any decision would be made on easing restrictions further.
The next level of restrictions easing would include:
- Sporting and entertainment venues to increase their capacity to 25 per cent of total seating capacity
- The removal of the 100-person limit per indoor and outdoor space
- The re-introduction of high-risk gatherings such as mass gatherings, conferences, festivals and re-opening night clubs.
The next checkpoint to determine if more restrictions can be eased will be on October 1.
The ACT's chief health officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman, said it was likely Canberra would remain on stage 3.1 of restrictions for some time.
"While some consider these changes to be small, it's hoped it will make a big difference to smaller venues in the ACT and help the progression to a COVID-safe business-as-usual model," Dr Coleman said.
"I recognise this means that some customers and businesses may not be able to maintain the social distancing of 1.5 metres between individuals.
"In this instance you should strive to separate groups that don't know each other as far apart as practicable."
Dr Coleman said a major factor in allowing the changes to go ahead was the launch of the Check In CBR app, which stored the details of customers of places like restaurants and cafes for 28 days to help with contact tracing, should a positive case emerge.
However, health authorities have expressed concern about Canberra's daily coronavirus testing rate dropping to some of its lowest levels in recent weeks.
That rate had dropped down to as low as 400 tests per day earlier this week, when the rate had been almost 1700 on September 1.
Testing rates since early July, when the last known case of coronavirus was recorded in the ACT, have regularly been more than 700 tests, with multiple days in excess of 1000 daily tests.
Dr Coleman said ACT health officials wanted to see the daily testing rate increase to between 600 and 800, in order to have a greater understanding of whether there were traces of coronavirus still in the community.
"I suspect there's been a degree of fatigue and complacency, and there may be some confusion and complacency about testing due to hay fever," Dr Coleman said.
"We remind people that testing is important and a central component, so continue to get tested."
Dr Coleman said a major factor in allowing the changes to go ahead was the launch of the Check In CBR app, which stores the details of customers of places like restaurants and cafes for 28 days to help with contact tracing, should a positive case emerge.
With the school holidays approaching, Dr Coleman said the travel advice to Canberrans urging them not to travel to greater Sydney for non-essential purposes, was being reviewed this week.
Updated travel advice is expected to be announced in coming days before the start of the school holidays.