Australia needs to grapple with the future of vaccine passports, and whether they will become a permanent feature of life in the country, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr says.
Mr Barr on Tuesday said the ACT government did not anticipate it would need to allow fully vaccinated Canberrans different freedoms, because the difference between 70 and 80 per cent vaccination coverage in the territory would be about five days.
"Do we want our police forces going around checking on individual businesses and individual transactions as to whether a business has served an unvaccinated customer? Is that the sort of Australia we want to live in? Is that a permanent feature of our future?" Mr Barr said.
The Chief Minister reiterated his position that the territory would not seek to implement a complex arrangement to ease restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals for only a short time.
"Another question would be is: are we going to extend the vaccination passports to other infectious diseases. There's a lot of work going on to combine COVID-19 shots, boosters, with flu shots," Mr Barr said.
"Are we going to require that people show a vaccination certificate around their flu vaccination? What about measles? Rubella? Whooping cough? Polio? Is this a new part of Australian life. These are questions that will need answers."
After being criticised by business groups and the Opposition on Tuesday, Mr Barr on Wednesday used the daily COVID-19 press conference to step through the types of restrictions that could be used as the ACT moves through the phases in the national plan.
"We expect restrictions to gradually change through these vaccination phases in October and November, with the caveat that they may need to be adjusted to respond to increased risk of COVID-19 spreading," he said.
Mr Barr said home visitation limits would gradually increase, along with caps on gatherings and large events. Density limits for businesses would remain in force and there would be a staged return to office buildings.
"When looking to change our public health restrictions, we'll consider those national and local vaccination rates, the levels of community transmission, especially the proportion of cases infectious in the community, our testing rates and our testing turnaround times, so that we can quickly isolate positive cases," he said.
"Our ability to test, trace, isolate and quarantine through those transition phases is very important."
The national plan, adopted by national cabinet in July, said low-level restrictions and track-and-trace measures would be used to minimise COVID-19 cases in the community once a jurisdiction moves to phase B.
That phase is reached when the national vaccination coverage reaches 70 per cent and the jurisdiction also reaches 70 per cent.
The plan said lockdowns were "less likely but possible" in phase B, while the post-80 per cent vaccination phase would use "highly targeted lockdowns only" while at other times "minimum ongoing baseline restrictions" would be in force "adjusted to minimise cases without lockdowns".
The Doherty Institute modelling report, prepared for national cabinet, said low-level public health and social measures include density limits of one person for every 2 square metres, a return to work with social distancing in place, open schools, and recreational activities allowed within capacity limits.
Baseline restrictions still include a 2-square-metre density limit and social distancing rules, along with large sporting venues operating at 70 per cent capacity.
However, the institute's modelling found transitions to phases C, after 80 per cent vaccination coverage was achieved, and D were associated with greater uncertainty due to new emerging COVID-19 variants and waning vaccine-derived immunity.
Mr Barr criticised media reporting of Tuesday's announcement of the ACT's COVID-19 pathway foward for not covering the detail of measures within the national plan and modelling from the Doherty Institute.
"Who characterised it as a roadmap? We said it was a pathway forward, we'd outline our next steps," he said.
"There was almost no reporting yesterday on the detail of what I've just gone through today. Now fair enough. There's a lot to cover and there's only a small amount of time. I think it is challenging to communicate this level of information and detail this far out from making decisions."
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