The doors had barely started lifting at Kmart in Tuggeranong when the cheers started as shoppers rushed to get their retail fix on Friday morning.
By lunchtime, customers were emerging from Bunnings in Fyshwick with full trollies, and talking of freedom as though a war was over.
"Beautiful. It's good to be free again," Jayanti Bajgain said as she pushed her load of roses and lavender to the car.
"Very cool," nine-year-old Uday Ojha said. "It's majestic because we are going out shopping again."
Canberra retailers reopened for the first time in more than two months, with delighted customers keen to get in and browse after being force to shop online since the city went into lockdown in August.
Some couldn't wait for the doors to open, ducking under the shutters before they'd reached the top and others cheering and clapping in relief.
One elderly man rose his fist in victory and cheered, two teenage girls filmed the shutters going up and masked shoppers fast-walked towards the store as it re-opened at 8am.
The man and his wife were only coming to retrieve a $16 lay-by that had been languishing in the store over the 10-week lockdown, a gift for their grandson.
Then they were off to Big W, which opened at 8.30am, to do the same - rescue a lay-by.
Kmart staff seemed in high spirits as they welcomed customers back into the store. There were laughs and some team stretches before the doors went up, as the staff prepared for a big day of shopping in the national capital.
Operators have to adhere to one person per four square metre density limits for customers after previously only being allowed to serve customers via click and collect services.
Smaller retailers were previously allowed to have limited staff numbers on site, but customers had to book an appointment if they wanted to shop in store.
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Now customers are free to browse without scheduling their visit and a sausage sizzle at Bunnings will be allowed to return this weekend.
A chance to celebrate milestones again
For shoppers at Woden, the reopening wasn't just about material goods, but preparing to celebrate milestones once again.
Children's birthday parties were a common thread for shoppers on Friday morning, with a number of parents busy stocking up for festivities.
Kiescha Jamieson and her daughter Joselyn emerged from Big W with supplies for Joselyn's third birthday, which she'll celebrate at home with her best friends.
"We've got decorations, outfits, toys, and just got to come back for balloons," Ms Jamieson said.
"I wasn't expecting to get this stuff on her birthday so I was very, very grateful and happy that this is open now."
"She knows that we always go hard for her birthday, so just very blessed and fortunate to have not missed it this time, this year."
People started filing into Woden Westfield on Friday morning, with Harry Hartog manager Kathryn Henry excited to reopen the doors.
"It did feel surreal," Ms Henry said. "We rang people yesterday about things we had on hold and spent a lot of time on the phone with customers.
"A lot of people were happy to get back. We're really happy to be back ... we compressed it all into two days [to reopen]. It went from sleeping in every morning to having long days, it was like Christmas."
Kidstuff Woden employee Chloe Chen added: "It's been pretty full on. We've had to make a COVID safety plan ... we've had to mop and clean because we've been shut for a few months.
"It's full on, but I think we're ready now. I'd like some normalcy again ... a steady flow of people coming in. It's good to see people again."
Another step forward for Canberra's reopening
The change to retail settings is another step forward for the easing of restrictions in Canberra.
The double-dose vaccination rate is above 80 per cent and the border to NSW will fully reopen on November 1.
The move aligns with the NSW decision to allow travel from Greater Sydney into the state's regional areas.
From next month, the territory will implement an individual local government area assessment of public health risk from November.
"This will allow the ACT chief health officer to declare high-risk LGAs as COVID-affected areas with relevant stay at home or quarantine requirements," the government said in a statement.
The ACT will also mirror "mandatory quarantine requirements for people arriving from overseas with NSW".
Density limits will also change at the end of October, with hospitality and outdoor events to have their capacities increased.
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