Canberrans have been told to avoid travel for the next six weeks despite NSW changing its restrictions and allowing ACT residents to visit anywhere in the state except Sydney.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr used the first day of "gentle steps" out of lockdown to warn against unnecessary travel, even though 99 per cent of residents in the capital have had one dose of a COVID vaccination.
The NSW government announced changes to its travel requirements on Thursday night, opening the border to visitors from Canberra from Friday morning.
But the move comes with a catch. Any Canberrans visiting NSW regions outside of the 27 postcode border bubble will have to quarantine when returning to the capital.
Mr Barr said his government was still considering the NSW changes and refused to put a timeline on when the ACT would fully open the border to NSW.
"My advice is for between now and November 1, travel across the border is for those essential reasons," Mr Barr said.
"They are broader than they were before and that includes visiting family. It includes work and study ... but the best way to describe it is that it's not for holidays and it's not for recreation.
"It's about a defined reason for going.
"Victoria is another issue. There's a two or two-and-a-half week period here ... we're not saying everyone should travel. That's not the objective.
"We still have a virus circulating and 90,000 plus who are not vaccinated fully.
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"The best advice is that if you don't need to travel, don't travel. If you don't need to cross the border, don't cross the border. If you don't need to be in a room full of lots of people, don't be in a room full of lots of people.
Mr Barr expected travel restrictions to Victoria to change in the coming weeks after Victoria downgraded Canberra to an "orange zone", which means travellers from the ACT have to isolate until they return a negative test after arriving in the state.
But his general rule for travel was simple. "If you don't need to [travel] in the next four to six weeks, then don't."
He said Canberra residents could only visit border neighbours, including Queanbeyan, for essential reasons. He said Canberrans should not move across the border to go to the pub or shops.
There has been mass confusion about why people can and cannot travel to the border bubble region, which was extended this week.
The confusion has been compounded by Mr Barr saying residents in the bubble could not use restaurants, cafes or pubs as their reason for travel. But they could visit those venues if they entered the ACT for other essential reasons.
"Going to the pub is not an essential reason," Mr Barr said.
"I don't think it's that complicated. Anytime you are near other people, it's a transmission risk. There's still risk.
"The advice to everyone is be careful. The pandemic hasn't ended, there will still be transmission of the virus."
ACT Senator Zed Seselja called on the government to give Canberrans clarity.
"Andrew Barr was lying when he told Canberrans on Wednesday they are unable to go to the coast because of NSW processes," he told The Canberra Times.
"Today NSW has lifted restrictions on Canberrans to travel across regional NSW and yet the Chief Minister is banning Canberrans from leaving the ACT for the next 4 to 6 weeks.
"At this rate people will be able to travel overseas before Canberrans can go to the South Coast. Canberrans are among the most vaccinated populations in the world yet they are being arbitrarily denied basic freedoms by Andrew Barr."
Mr Barr expected people to dob in others who breach the health orders and flout border restrictions.
"Most of this is around trust. But I don't want people to think there won't be any enforcement, or that there's a chance they won't get caught. Because there is," Mr Barr said.
Mr Barr also said the government would still identify COVID hotspots in NSW and other states, and enforce restrictions or quarantine on travellers who had been in those areas.
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