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Melbourne-based federal MPs have been cleared to travel to Canberra without undertaking a 14-day quarantine period to attend next week's parliamentary sitting week in person for the first time in months following the state's deadly coronavirus outbreak.
In a written advisory from ACT Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman and acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, MPs based within metropolitan Melbourne were told the decision had been made because the situation within Victoria had "now improved markedly".
Health Minister Greg Hunt relocated to Canberra for weeks ahead of last month’s budget.Credit:Twitter
Between October 30 and November 5 there have been no new cases of COVID-19 detected in Victoria while the ACT has remained COVID-free for months.
"Advice from the Chief Medical Officer indicates that due to low case numbers within Victoria, it is his opinion that there is low risk associated with travel of federal parliamentarians into the ACT and to the Parliament House workplace," the email reads.
"Against this background, an entry authorisation certificate (exemption) will be provided to all Victorian members of Parliament and senators who wish to enter the ACT for the 9-12 November 2020 sitting week, without the requirement to quarantine for two weeks."
The NSW-Victorian border is not scheduled to be reopened until November 23, meaning all travellers from Melbourne without an exemption are forced to undertake the 14-day self-isolation period.
The ACT government has said it will wait a full two weeks from Victoria easing restrictions on November 8 before making changes to border restrictions, to allow sufficient time for its health authorities to assess the immediate impact.
Several senior Victorian members of the Morrison government, including Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt, relocated to Canberra for weeks ahead of last month's budget.
MPs who remained in Victoria have contributed to parliamentary debates, committees and inquiry via secure video links from their electorate offices.
Senators and MPs have been asked by health authorities to comply with a number of "core principles" while undertaking what is defined as "essential travel into, and residing in, the ACT".
They will fly only on a special chartered RAAF flight and have been told that all travel should be keep to private vehicles, with masks warn in the event they need to use any form of public transport. They are also encouraged to minimise any face-to-face meetings, eat only in their private offices or accommodation and not share meals with others.
They will only be able to attend their accommodation and place of work and not attend any cafes or restaurants, gyms, events or parties.
The staff of MPs have not been granted exemptions to travel and can do so only if they quarantine.
Labor backbenchers Josh Burns and Peter Khalil wrote to health authorities earlier this week urging them to consider changing the restrictions earlier.
Politicians from regional Victoria were granted exemptions to attend the previous sitting week providing they had not been in Melbourne for the previous 14 days, wore masks and kept face-to-face contact to a minimum.
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