By Alayna Bourke

As the ACT lockdown is due to lift on 14 October at 11:59pm, COVID regulations are set to ease across residential halls. This update will be welcomed by many on-campus students as they have been subjected to tight regulations for the months Canberra has been in lockdown. Observer talked to the Public Health Lead of the ANU COVID Response Office, Prof. Tracy Smart, about what residents can expect as restrictions around the ACT begin to ease over the next few weeks. 

Since the ACT went into lockdown on 12 August, residential halls have been kept under specific restrictions in order to minimise COVID-19 transmission in close-quarter student accommodation. Restrictions have included ‘bubble living’, standard COVID-Safe measures around the halls, registering guests, and quarantine procedures in cases of close, casual and secondary contacts.  

First, ‘bubble living’- which confines student movement within the halls to specific times and places within limited groups – is here to stay until further notice, as is the current policy of 1 designated guest per resident. However, as ACT Health have changed Test, Trace, Isolate and Quarantine (TTIQ) requirements to mean secondary contacts no longer require quarantine, the size of the ‘bubbles’ is set to be extended; with the exact increase to be determined by individual residences. This will allow for extended access to facilities such as kitchens and common areas, which will operate within time limits and bubble group allocations.

“We’ve tried to balance public health risk with wellbeing”, Smart says, but the risk of increased COVID cases as restrictions lift means “the next two weeks have still got a bit of uncertainty about them”.

Hall restrictions, however, are looking likely to ease going forwards, considering the expectation of increased vaccination percentages by the ACT’s next ‘checkpoint’ on 29 October. Smart says that if “things look pretty stable, then we’ll certainly reassess”. The ACT is set to enjoy the title of being the most vaccinated city in the world with 98% of Canberrans having received a first-dose, and 73.5% fully vaccinated.

As for enjoying lifted lockdown restrictions outside of student accommodation, Smart says residents “can still go out and do what all other Canberrans can do”, with no more restrictions on reasons to leave a residence except those imposed by ACT Health.

For more information on residential COVID restrictions, see the latest directions page for residential students on campus.

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