Territory police will continue their border crackdown on non-residents as the ACT enters its third day of border closures with COVID-19 hotspots in New South Wales.
The ACT government announced on Saturday it would be effectively closing its borders to non-residents who had been in COVID-19 hotspots and requiring residents returning who had visited them to enter a 14-day quarantine.
ACT Policing confirmed 1739 vehicles had been stopped on Saturday with 135 vehicles turned away from entering. ACT residents returning from the identified areas were among those checked with 119 being directed to quarantine.
Operations continued on Sunday on the Federal Highway near the border and would be set up again up on Monday, police said.
"ACT Policing will continue to patrol highways and roads into Canberra, and will increase its activities at certain times of the day," an ACT Policing spokesperson said.
Meanwhile a few kilometres away on the Barton Highway, a half-hour detour bypassing the Federal Highway, the police presence was scarce.
The same could be said for Kings Highway, which allows entry to the territory through the NSW town of Queanbeyan to Canberra's west.
Police would not provide reasoning regarding why similar checkpoints were also not being set up on alternative highways leading into the territory.
They would also not reveal what measures were being undertaken to counter people from simply taking the detours but maintained patrols would be randomly checking vehicles to ensure compliance with the health directions.
An ACT government spokesperson said it was relying on the goodwill of residents and non-residents to do the right thing.
"The ACT has a fantastic track record of compliance with COVID-19 restrictions," the spokesperson said.
"Throughout the pandemic, when we have asked the community to do something that is about protecting our community, people have listened and heeded our advice."
The government confirmed nearly 2700 people were quarantining in the ACT as of Sunday afternoon with 2523 of them having returned from NSW COVID hotspots.
It is expected the bulk of visitors and returning residents had passed but the government acknowledged the ACT wasn't in the clear just yet.
"Over the weekend we have continued to see high numbers given the updated direction has only been in place since midday [Saturday]. However, we expect that to stabilise as people become more familiar with the travel restrictions now in place," the spokesperson said.
"It is very possible that the ACT may see cases here that are connected to the NSW outbreak in the coming weeks with people movement from these COVID affected areas posing the biggest risk to the ACT.
"It's why we have acted quickly to respond by putting in place strong travel restrictions and quarantine requirements for anyone who has been in these areas."
The Federal Highway's checkpoints caused confusion and frustration for many on Saturday as queues along the major highway stretched on for kilometres.
One resident, Simone Maher, visited Lerida Estate to celebrate a birthday lunch with friends on Saturday. On her return, she was caught in a long line of cars waiting to enter the territory, making the typically 30-minute journey into a three-hour one.
"We were not aware we would be stopped by [a] checkpoint coming home," Ms Maher said.
The stoppage started around 1.5 kilometres out from Eagle Hawk Park, Ms Maher said. Once she made it to the police checkpoint by 5.30pm, her licence was checked and a few questions asked and she was allowed to pass through.
ACT chief health officer Kerryn Coleman said the tighter restrictions introduced on Saturday were necessary to protect the ACT community.
"In recent days we have continued to see around 80 non-ACT residents from COVID-19 affected areas travel to the ACT daily," Dr Coleman said.
"We are putting in place strengthened travel restrictions to make it absolutely clear to non-ACT residents who live or have recently visited COVID-19 affected areas of NSW that they are not able to be in the ACT at this time."
Anyone caught breaking the new rules can be fined up to $8000, acting Health Minister Chris Steel said.