Airport head blasts ACT Chief Minister over lockdown

Not happy: Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron (at rear) and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr. Picture: Karleen Minney
Not happy: Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron (at rear) and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr. Picture: Karleen Minney

The head of Canberra Airport has launched a scathing attack on ACT government policy over the end of the lockdown and the way out of the pandemic.

An exasperated Stephen Byron accused Chief Minister Andrew Barr of not being clear on when or how the lockdown will end.

"Canberrans are disappointed, confused and angry," Mr Byron said.

"They are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated and now they don't trust government to let them out as we have been promised."

At a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Barr said tight restrictions could remain even when 80 per cent of adults in the territory were fully vaccinated in accordance with the national plan.

If the current speed of vaccinations continues, the most authoritative forecast is that that milestone should be reached in about a month, maybe sooner.

Mr Byron, the airport's managing director, was deeply unhappy about the doubt and uncertainty.

"When do restrictions ease?" Mr Byron asked. "Yesterday was supposed to be a plan for that. We got nothing."

He accused the Chief Minister of not understanding community feeling: "I'm not sure Barr understands he won't be able to keep the community in lockdown once we are at 80 per cent in Canberra.

"Parents want their children educated. The dates for the resumption of school are heartbreaking for parents and children."

Mr Byron said there was a "massive mental health impact" aspect to the ongoing lockdown..

He was also swingeing in his criticism of what he takes as the Chief Minister's view that the situation in the ACT is dependent on the situation across Australia.

"Barr says we must wait for the nation to get to 80 per cent, but why, why, why do we need to wait for Western Australia and Queensland and other places we can't travel to?" he said.

"It's the ACT's vaccination rate that matters."

Not only did Mr Byron question the Chief Minister's judgment about the need for a lockdown when 80 per cent full vaccination is reached, but he pointed to wider implications.

"There is a huge human rights question about locking up a community beyond 80 per cent vaccination rate when the national plan says [to] ease restrictions for the vaccinated," he said.

"We are on track for 70 per cent in the ACT on 10 October. Last Thursday Barr said we would take five days to go from 70 per cent to 80 per cent. It was his excuse for not allowing restaurants and cafes and pubs to open for vaccinated people when we got to 70 per cent.

"So we will be at 80 per cent on October 15. And at that rate, 85 per cent only days later.

"Schools should go back at 85 per cent - all year groups. And cafes and pubs should be open.

"Canberrans are not going to cop NSW being open to the vaccinated at 70 per cent and Canberra being in full lockdown."

Mr Barr said: "We remain focused on supporting as many Canberrans as possible to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

"I thank Mr Byron for his contribution to that shared goal by making available unused office space at the Airport for the Government to establish a vaccination centre."

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This story Airport head blasts ACT Chief Minister over lockdown first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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