Canberra travellers have been warned they face a long wait to eligible to travel anywhere outside of NSW and Victoria despite the ACT leading the nation in the double-dose vaccination rate.
The respective NSW and ACT roadmaps to exit COVID lockdown have created travelling confusion for regional communities and Canberrans who had hoped to leave the capital in the coming months.
All states and territories and the Commonwealth government have declared the ACT a COVID-19 hotspot and it is unclear how that will impact hopes of travel.
The NSW government said it could lockdown cities or suburbs that have COVID exposure even when it opens up after hitting the 80 per cent vaccination milestone.
But Premier Gladys Berejiklian or deputy John Barilaro are yet to say how the ACT will be judged or if Canberrans will be free to travel interstate.
The ACT recorded 13 new cases on Tuesday and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr this week outlined a pathway forward, which included potential easing of postcode restrictions for the city. The government is only allowing 10 NSW postcodes to travel into Canberra under the current guidelines.
"We're continuing to work with the NSW and Victorian governments on interstate travel requirements," Mr Barr said.
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"These states, NSW and Victoria, are likely to allow travel earlier than the other states and territories that are currently COVID free.
"In time, I am optimistic that the ACT, NSW and Victoria will have common travel arrangements. But the three jurisdictions are on slightly different pathways out of lockdown.
"The requirements that other states and territories put in place, we believe will be consistent across ACT, NSW and Victoria.
"I don't think there will be a different set of arrangements for Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Tasmania or South Australia to apply to distinguish ACT residents from NSW residents and possibly Victorian. [But] we're likely to be locked out of those COVID-free jurisdictions for a while longer."
Mr Barr hoped cross-border travel into NSW could restart in some capacity at the end of October, and hoped further restrictions would be eased in December.
But he warned any ACT resident going into NSW would need to have proof of vaccination to adhere to NSW rules. The ACT will not require businesses to check vaccination status of customers, but NSW is set to implement the rule.
"As the ACT remains an identified COVID hotspot by the Commonwealth government and all other states and territories, there are strict requirements for you if you travel outside of the ACT," Mr Barr said.
"Once you cross the border you have to adhere to the rules and restrictions of the jurisdictions you are travelling to.
"NSW yesterday changed their plan, which they're allowed to do. Things are very uncertain.
"I don't control what their rules are about their own citizens, or indeed what their rules are about ACT residents travelling into that region.
"In the short term we want to be working with NSW to expand that nearby Canberra region. We will then look to make decisions with a full understanding of what NSW will be doing in terms of its own regional travel to try to align that.
"NSW will have this weird month where they're somehow checking on vaccination status of everyone who moves around the state, I don't know how they'll do that until December 1.
"It seems to me there will be a lot more clarity and movement allowed between the ACT and NSW, and hopefully Victoria after December 1. It will be a lot less complicated then. But between now and then there is going to be this weird set of rules.
Eleven of the 13 cases announced on Tuesday 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.
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.
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