The chief health officer has apologised for a quarantine restriction mistake, clearing the way for Canberrans to travel to and from the south coast for Christmas.
Health officials initially included the lllawarra-Shoalhaven region in their list of areas to avoid when announcing changes to coronavirus travel advice on Sunday night. ACT Health has since retracted that, including only the Wollongong local government area in the list of affected regions.
A further 15 cases were recorded in NSW to 8pm Sunday, all linked to the northern beaches cluster.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the drop in numbers was a good sign but the state remained in a volatile situation.
"The government is monitoring the situation almost on an hourly basis. We will consider our position in relation to what Christmas and the next few days look like beyond Wednesday," she said.
ACT chief health officer Kerryn Coleman has apologised for the error causing chaos on the south coast on Sunday, as Canberrans scrambled to get home before midnight.
"I hope people take that apology and we are working in good faith to represent the situation as accurately as possible, as timely as possible," she told ABC Radio Canberra.
"We were working off the information we had from NSW and the NSW website and we're doing everything we can to update the information."
Note that the COVID-19 Helpline on (02) 6207 7244 is experiencing a very high volume of calls.— ACT Health (@ACTHealth) December 20, 2020
Advice is changing rapidly, so if you are seeking information about travel happening more than 2 days in the future, we ask you to delay your enquiry until closer to your trip.
Dr Coleman said authorities were working to clarify their messaging.
"I apologise if our information is not quite hitting the mark ... we are really trying to clarify it in the best way possible," she said.
A state of confusion ensued overnight, with many Canberrans rushing back from the coast to avoid quarantine with the COVID-19 hotline now under immense pressure with hundreds of people in queue before 9am on Monday.
The new measures were put in place in an attempt to limit the spread of the northern beaches outbreak in Sydney, with Canberrans told to avoid travel to greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Wollongong and the Blue Mountains.
Any ACT residents returning from those regions must alert authorities and enter into 14-days quarantine on arrival.
There has been widespread confusion along the coast overnight after Dr Coleman included the Illawarra-Shoalhaven region in the list, following the list of areas from NSW Health.
The Illawarra-Shoalhaven region, which includes the Wollongong LGA, stretches as far south as Bawley Point and Durras North.
Many ACT residents on the south coast were scrambling to return home before the rules came into effect at midnight, with some reporting long lines of cars entering Canberra late on Sunday night.
But ACT Health has since clarified Shoalhaven - other than the Wollongong LGA - will not be subject to quarantine for returning Canberra residents or visitors.
Dr Coleman urged against unnecessary travel to any parts of NSW, warning the situation was moving quickly and further quarantine requirements could be imposed.
"This situation is quite unpredictable, and we know it can be challenging to get on top of transmission," she said.
She didn't rule out expanding the affected zones as more information came to light.
"If you don't have to, don't be travelling in NSW at the moment."
NSW deputy premier John Barilaro has also urged those in the Sydney region against regional travel.
"Be mature. Be understanding that you could cause some risk and anxiety, so if you have any symptoms, please get tested. Change your travel plans and maybe [don't] visit regional NSW until we get on top of this issue," he said.