ACT records 33 new cases of COVID-19, as differing cross-border restrictions frustrate Canberra retailers

Canberra business owners are frustrated by differing cross-border restrictions on non-essential retail that they say is leaving them at a “competitive disadvantage”.Changes to travel arrangements on Saturday now mean fully vaccinated Canberrans can visit surrounding New South Wales for any reason, including to go shopping at non-essential retail stores.But on-going restrictions in the ACT, mean non-essential retailers in the territory can only offer click-and-collect, delivery or by-appointment shopping for up to two customers.Graham Catt from the Canberra Business Chamber said retailers were struggling to make sense of the situation, particularly when cafes and restaurants in the ACT were allowed to open with up to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.”In some cases, you can literally look across the border and see very different trading rules in place there, where shops are able to open,” he said.”Of course, they’re trading with density limits and only to vaccinated customers, but it’s a very different story when you can actually open your doors to trade.”The [different] rules really do put them at a competitive disadvantage.”‘Not worth opening’ for many Canberra retailersRestrictions are set to ease on October 29 and Mr Catt said for many retailers it was simply not worth opening before then.”There’s very few cases where the [current] arrangements are going to provide you with anything like a viable operating model,” he said.”It’s really not worth opening up when there’s so little business actually coming through the door.”We do talk to people who say they’d love to be open, they’d love to be serving customers again, they’d love to be getting back to business but it just doesn’t make financial sense for them.” Graham Catt says the next two weeks will be “make or break” for many small retailers. (ABC News: David Sciasci)Mr Catt said financial assistance for small businesses ended on October 15 and some would struggle to stay afloat over the next two weeks.”For small retailers in particular, it’s not just the past eight or nine weeks but the past two years have been really tough,” he said.”Many of them have been eating into their savings, drawing down on their mortgage, they’ve been incurring debt just to be able to keep the business afloat in the hope of reopening.”So those two weeks can make all the difference for a business.”Unfortunately for some of them, it could mean the difference between being able to continue the businesses or not being in the position to do so.” Many retailers aren’t going to open their doors until restrictions ease further on October 29. Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith yesterday defended the ACT’s rules.”We understand that this raises questions for people but the Chief Health Officer has taken a very considered approach to balancing risk across the community and across the economy,” she said.She said the gradual easing of restrictions was needed until Canberra’s vaccination rate was higher.33 new cases recorded, fewer people getting testedThe ACT has recorded 33 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases.Of the new cases, 24 are linked to known infections or clusters.There are 16 people in hospital with the virus, with nine in intensive care.There are now 486 active cases in the ACT.More than 78 per cent of Canberrans aged 12 and over are now fully vaccinated.There has been a noticeable drop in the number of people getting tested for COVID-19, with only 1,508 tests collected yesterday compared to more than 3,500 on the previous Saturday.While Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman acknowledged part of the drop was due to the way exposure locations were now classified, she said it was still essential for Canberrans to get tested.”Testing remains a vital step in the way we manage COVID-19, especially now that we have eased restrictions,” Dr Coleman said in a statement.”We are strongly urging Canberrans to continue to get tested with the mildest of COVID-19 symptoms and as soon as symptoms start.”While the risk is lower, it is important everyone remembers that even if fully vaccinated, you can still contract COVID-19 and pass it on to others, especially to those who are unvaccinated.”Sunday is the last day of operation for the Gold Creek School pop-up testing site.The site will close tomorrow to allow the school to prepare for the return of students the following week.Testing sites will remain open at the Garran Surge Centre, Capital Pathology in Holt and O’Connor, the Winnunga Nimmityjah Respiratory Clinic, along with drive-through testing at Exhibition Park and Kambah.What you need to know about coronavirus:Loading form…

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