Retailers will soon be able to welcome more customers through the door in the ACT, with changes on the way for restrictions after the territory reached a key vaccination milestone.
Eighty per cent of people in the ACT aged 12 and older have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while more than 99 per cent have had at least one dose.
The ACT government will on Tuesday announce changes to restrictions. They are expected to include allowing non-essential retailers to reopen to customers with strict density limits.
The emergency cabinet met on Monday to consider changes following the achievement of the vaccination target.
Pressure to allow more businesses to reopen had mounted after border rules were relaxed and Canberrans could shop in-person in Queanbeyan.
The owner of Joe's Boots, Steve Ovcar, said the rules had been incredibly frustrating and inconsistent for small business owners. He was eager to reopen his Kingston shop to customers.
Mr Ovcar's shop had been shut for the lockdown, the longest holiday he'd had in 42 years.
He said he would normally have 50 pairs of boots in for repair each day, but there were just five pairs presently on his workbench.
"You hit a brick wall and think, 'What do I do'? We were coming in here, just doing nothing. Standing around. I was coming in just with a flannie shirt on, keeping warm, didn't have a work shirt on," Mr Ovcar said.
"Thought, 'No one's going to see me'. Wasn't even shaving. Just trying to get some sales up."
But now Mr Ovcar said he had to keep the shop open to survive.
"If I sell a pair of laces, it's something in the till. We've got to pay rent," he said.
Mr Ovcar said he was eager for restrictions in the ACT to match NSW, where non-essential retailers were allowed to have customers come into their shops.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr flagged on Monday afternoon reaching the 80 per cent vaccination target would trigger adjustments to restrictions.
The first stage in the ACT government's post-lockdown "pathway forward" meant non-essential retail could operate for click and collect and offer appointments for two customers at a time.
However, changes to border arrangements with NSW at the weekend, which allowed non-essential travel between the ACT and parts of the surrounding state, meant Canberrans could enter non-essential retail shops in Queanbeyan and other towns.
The 80 per cent vaccination rate in the ACT also means COVID-19 disaster payments will be wound back in the territory.
Federal Emergency Management Minister Bridget McKenzie said there had already been a downward trend in the number of COVID-19 disaster payment claims.
"While it's fantastic to see people in the ACT returning to work, the payment will remain available to workers who continue to be impacted by restrictions for another two weeks," Senator McKenzie said.
The payment rates will decrease over the next fortnight and workers who have lost hours will need to reapply each week to remain eligible for the payments.
More than 64,000 people in the ACT received $318 million in disaster payments. More than $11 billion has been paid out nationally.
The Commonwealth is also expected to remove its hotspot declaration for the ACT, which it does for states and territories after they reach the 80 per cent vaccination threshold.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith earlier said the cabinet would on Monday discuss restrictions with ACT chief health officer Dr Kerryn Coleman, ahead of an announcement on Tuesday.
But Ms Stephen-Smith said while the 80 per cent vaccination rate was a good level of protection, there were still tens of thousands of people who needed second doses.
"We're continuing to encourage Canberrans to be cautious as we reopen," Ms Stephen-Smith said.
The health minister said vaccination rates varied across the community, with older people more likely to be fully protected than younger people, who were more active in the community.
"That's why we have chosen a gradual pathway out of lockdown because while we're reaching 80 per cent, we're not reaching 80 per cent for everyone today," she said.
Ms Stephen-Smith said the disparity in vaccination rates across different age groups meant the ACT government would need to continue to balance restrictions on the community and the economy for the next couple of weeks.
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