ACT COVID restrictions return to Canberra amid Omicron wave, dancing and singing banned in pubs | The Canberra Times

coronavirus, covid-19, vaccines, pandemic, the law, NSW, dominic perrottet

Canberrans will have to sit in pubs and cafes, and dancing will be banned, under rules that have been re-imposed to curb escalating case numbers. The limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings could also return after the ACT suffered its first daily increase of more than 1,000 since the start of the pandemic. Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the growing caseload – the ACT registered 1,246 new infections on Friday – coupled with a worrying situation in NSW called for swift action. Mr Barr announced that licensed venues – including bars, nightclubs and cafes – must ensure that their customers are seated while eating and drinking from 12 noon on Saturday. “Mandatory face masks, density limits and other public health measures for businesses and indoor locations also remain,” he said. “Events continue with ACT Health working closely with event organizers to ensure COVID safety plans are in place.” The ACT will continue to assess the situation, with the reintroduction of indoor and outdoor meeting limits on the table. ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith warned the pandemic “will not go away” and urged Canberrans to reconsider the size of the gathering at their home. “We need everyone to stay accountable for the way they run their social events,” she said. It came hours after a significant turnaround from NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, who announced a host of restrictions will return to slow the highly contagious Omicron variant. With the state’s testing regime succumbing to demand for PCR testing, NSW will consider positive rapid antigen test results as official COVID-19 cases. Mr Perrottet warned the state will go through a “tough few weeks”, with his models predicting cases to peak in late January. “This is a challenging time, not just in NSW, but around the world,” he said. “The efforts our people have put in have kept NSW safe, kept NSW open.” Dancing and singing is banned in hospitality establishments – including bars, restaurants and nightclubs – until at least January 27. With Omicron spreading rapidly among young people, Perrottet said the measures were designed to “minimize mixing.” Those already subject to vaccine mandates will need to receive a third dose, although no deadline has been set. Perrottet came under fire for lifting most of the restrictions on December 15, as Omicron proliferated. But he flatly rejected suggestions that the move contributed to the growing caseload, which has reported more than 100,000 cases in three days. “I think you would see exactly the same, and that is now being confirmed across the country and the world,” he said. NSW considers positive rapid antigen test results to be COVID-19 cases as of next week. People who tested positive through a rapid antigen test should be isolated for seven days. Their household contacts would also be considered a COVID-19 case if they returned a positive rapid test result. Positive rapid test results previously had to be confirmed via a PCR test, but with queues bulging across the country, the national cabinet on Wednesday agreed to waive that requirement. Experts have warned that a shift in PCR testing, more accurate and conducted by health authorities, will make official data particularly unreliable. To ward off that threat, Mr Perrottet revealed that positive results must also be recorded through Services NSW. Victoria launched a similar system on Friday. Ms Stephen-Smith said Thursday the area will shift towards its own model for self-reporting rapid antigen testing, but the details were still being worked out. Our coverage of the health and safety aspects of this COVID-19 outbreak in the ACT is free to everyone. However, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism. If you can, register here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. You can also sign up for our newsletters for regular updates. Our journalists work hard to provide local, current news to the community. Here’s how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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