There are 13 new COVID-19 cases in Canberra and eight patients with coronavirus in hospital, as the ACT government warns of demand on the territory's health system from NSW residents.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr on Tuesday also flagged support for businesses impacted by COVID restrictions after lockdown ends next month, but said he expected some would be "treading water".
It follows backlash from the hospitality sector to a phased plan to ease restrictions, which the industry peak body says is unviable for businesses.
Mr Barr said only one of Canberra's new cases was in quarantine for all of their infectious period, seven had spent part of the period in the community, and the rest were under investigation.
Eleven cases have been linked to previous cases and two are still under investigation.
Eight patients are in hospital with COVID-19 and three of these are in intensive care. All three of the patients are on ventilation. Six of the eight hospital patients are unvaccinated, one is partially vaccinated and one has received both vaccine doses.
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The Chief Minister warned that a large proportion of the ACT's intensive care patients were from NSW, a trend that would continue to place demand on the territory's health system as the state grappled with the Delta variant.
"This reflects the fact that Canberra Hospital is the major tertiary hospital in the ACT and southern NSW," he said.
"It could be that up to 50 per cent of the patients in intensive care in Canberra Hospital over the coming weeks and months will in fact be regional NSW residents."
Chief health officer Kerryn Coleman said the number of people with symptoms who were waiting before getting tested had increased from 10 to 13 per cent in the last week. She urged people not to delay COVID testing.
"This is really concerning. Please don't wait. Please don't go to work if you have any symptoms. Please don't go to the drive-through, please don't go to the supermarket. Please put on a mask, go and get tested and go home until you get your result," Dr Coleman said.
"As we consider easing our restrictions for the immediate future, at least, it will be more important than ever for people to be diligent around checking the daily exposure sites, as well as being aware of the symptoms and presenting for testing."
'Some will be treading water'
Mr Barr announced extended support for businesses impacted by COVID restrictions after the ACT ends its lockdown on October 15.
He said no politician could guarantee that businesses would survive "for the rest of time" even in non-crisis situations.
The territory government will offer support through COVID-19 small business hardship, commercial tenancy support, and accommodation and tourism venue operator support schemes, and the small tourism operator COVID recovery payment.
Mr Barr also said hospitality businesses would receive relief through license and fee waivers.
These included waivers for the food business registration fee, which will be extended until March 31, 2022, and outdoor dining permit fees, which have been waived for another 12 months until June 30, 2022.
The annual licence fee waiver for some liquor licences has been tapered to provide another 50 per cent reduction for 12 months from April 2021 for eligible licensees.
Mr Barr said payroll tax waivers and deferrals were also available for businesses not already exempt from payroll tax.
"We recognise there will be a need for ongoing support for a good part of the hospitality sector," he said.
The ACT government is still negotiating other financial support for businesses - particularly in hospitality, tourism, arts and personal services sectors - with the Commonwealth. Mr Barr again expressed frustration at the absence of JobKeeper payments from the federal government during the ACT lockdown.
No politician can guarantee, even in normal circumstances, that every single business will survive for the rest of time.Andrew Barr
The ACT government gave Canberrans a pandemic roadmap on Monday, with some restrictions to change at the end of this week and more to follow later in October.
Businesses have been given a plan to restart, but the hospitality industry is frustrated at the reintroduction of the one person per four square metres rule.
The Australian Hotels Association on Monday blasted the government's reopening plan, saying it would stop businesses from opening up viably until late November or early December.
Mr Barr on Tuesday said the government understood that a rule requiring one person per four square metres was unviable for some parts of the hospitality sector.
"That's why economic support will continue in that industry sector, but the hospitality industry doesn't set the public health directions, nor does it set what the virus will do, and the Delta strain is obviously much more contagious," he said.
"These are high risk settings."
The social distancing rules would be viable for some hospitality businesses, and the government decided to reopen "the safer end of the industry" rather than keep the whole sector shut until December.
Mr Barr said the govenrment had to balance the decision against the need to reopen other parts of the economy, while considering public health.
"We don't just view this through the lens of hospitality," he said.
Asked whether some hospitality businesses would have to close before the end of 2021, Mr Barr said that wasn't "necessarily the conclusion".
"Certainly we'd hope that's not the case. I know some will just be treading water, and will be breaking even, and some might need some additional financial support.
"No politician can guarantee, even in normal circumstances, that every single business will survive for the rest of time. You just can't do that."
Modelling post-lockdown outbreaks
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said health modelling for COVID cases after the lockdown ended next month predicted a "consistent period of admissions".
"We know that this may vary up or down based on our active transmission rates in the community," she said.
About 5 per cent of cases in the ACT were currently admitted to hospital, usually occurring on day five to seven after infection, Ms Stephen-Smith said.
"We're expecting this rate will decrease with higher levels of vaccination, and we'll continue to monitor those hospitalisation rates."
Mr Barr on Monday flagged coronavirus cases after restrictions lifted could reach the hundreds in Canberra.
He said there would be more clarity and fewer restrictions for travel between Canberra, NSW and Victoria after December.
Until then, NSW would require proof of vaccination for people within its borders.
"My advice to ACT residents is that NSW are only going to allow regional travel if you are vaccinated. And you're going to have to prove that, you have to have proof of your vaccination with you when you cross over the border into NSW," Mr Barr said.
The territory government was talking to the NSW government about expanding the number of postcodes nearby the ACT exempt from restrictions on travelling to the capital.
Under plans to gradually ease restrictions, two people will be allowed to visit houses and outdoor restrictions will be eased to allow up to four hours outdoors when nature reserves and national parks reopen this week.
Cross-border travel eligibility remains unclear. Canberra residents still have to adhere to stay-at-home orders if they travel to NSW, and the NSW government has not given any indication about whether that will change when the ACT hits 70 or 80 per cent double-dose vaccination.
The government also outlined plans for the staged return to school. Year 12 students will return next week, year 11 to follow on October 18 and younger age groups will return on either October 25, or on November 1.
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