A slight tweak of lockdown rules from Saturday provided an avenue for the Radnedge family to dust off the tennis racquets, but with four weeks of lockdown ahead, families are calling for more outdoor freedom to balance its potential impact on mental health.
Michael Radnedge said changes allowing Turner Tennis Club to reopen would provide a welcome school holiday activity for his children, eight-year-old Hugo and 10-year-old Madeleine. The rest of this week's announcements had been "deflating", he said.
"The extension wasn't a surprise but that it jumped to four weeks was probably a little sobering," Mr Radnedge said.
From Saturday, rowing, golf and tennis were allowed once again in the ACT. However, a limit of five people at a time for two hours meant many families were unable to meet with other families to socialise.
Mr Radnedge said after five weeks of homeschooling, subtle behaviour changes had begun to emerge in their children which demonstrated low levels of anxiety.
"It's their friends, they're 100 per cent missing their friends, that's the sum total of it," he said.
With no return date set for ACT schools beyond year 11 and 12, concern has been raised this week over the impact on students' learning and mental health.
The ACT Human Rights Commission has called for an examination of the government's response to the outbreak, with Children's Commissioner Jodie Griffiths-Cook saying students were reporting feeling upset and frustrated with the lockdown extension.
Calls to Lifeline from the ACT were up 14 per cent last week compared to the same period last year. Daily calls were up close to 40 per cent on the 2019 average.
In efforts to meet anticipated increased service demand, the ACT government has provided $260,000 in additional funding to providers who work with groups identified as high risk during last year's outbreak.
Funding for mental health services through the ACT budget will be announced next week and discussions are underway to secure more federal funding.
They're 100 per cent missing their friends, that's the sum total of it.Michael Radnedge
Despite people waiting up to six months to see a psychologist in Canberra pre-pandemic, Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson said that wasn't a measure of the ACT's capacity to respond to the crisis.
"It's not all just about psychiatrists and psychologists," Ms Davidson said.
"It's also about counsellors, it's about peer health workers, it's about peer health support groups and support groups for parents and carers as well.
"The solutions that we're looking at run across a really wide range of different skill sets."
Ms Davidson said the pandemic had put children the world over in difficult circumstances. She was glad the ACT was in a position to enable people with some more contact from this weekend, Ms Davidson said.
Given the low risk of transmission of the virus in the outdoors, the Chief Minister confirmed the reopening of ACT national parks was high on the list for the future easing of restrictions.
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Acknowledging lockdown was taking a toll, Mr Barr said he would not want to see 10,000 Canberrans heading to Tidbinbilla all at once.
"The advice from the chief health officer was very clear about ensuring that in this period, which is still a very high risk period, we didn't have a lot of movement within the community," Mr Barr said. "Our vaccination rates are not yet high enough to allow a significant increase in movement."
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