Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

Queensland companies that allow unvaccinated staff and customers will face tighter COVID-19 restrictions imposed under a new plan being developed by the state government, the deputy prime minister said.

The plan has caused concern among some politicians and business groups who fear asking the hospitality staff that the “police” protector’s vaccination status could lead to an increase in abuse.

The Queensland government is developing another roadmap for restrictions with companies before the state opens its border to the declared COVID hotspots in New South Wales, ACT and Victoria on 17 December.

Deputy Prime Minister Steven Miles said places that only allow vaccinated customers and staff will face the slightest restrictions, such as increased capacity limits, during an inevitable outbreak.

The scheme will require companies to check evidence of vaccination among customers.

“We are now talking to companies that may want to take the opportunity to have only workers and patrons vaccinated in their places, and these places will be subject to the slightest restrictions,” Miles said.

“Other places that have people who are both vaccinated and non-vaccinated, they will likely continue to have some level of other public health restrictions until we reach that 90 percent threshold.”

The government is not expected to release its roadmap for local businesses until it reaches higher vaccine targets later in the year.

“When we reach those thresholds, there will be a different roadmap for restrictions,” Miles said.

Managers have flown to remote outback destinations in a sustained push to get regional Queenslanders vaccinated within 11 days to ensure they are fully protected by the time the borders reopen for COVID hotspots.

‘Not our job’ for ‘police’ vaccination

The prospect of asking staff to check on customers’ vaccination status has already been shut down by some in the industry.

Alex Johns is a co-owner of the live music venue Sol Bar in Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast.

Dimi Limnatitis and Alex Johns
Solbar co-owners Dimi Limnatitis and Alex Johns say they will not ask their staff to check if customers have been vaccinated.(ABC News: Owen Jacques)

He said it would not be fair to ask his staff to check if customers were vaccinated.

“Our friendly frontline housemates have been exposed to a fair stream of abuse at certain levels [restrictions like] sit down, get up, take off your mask, put your mask back on, etc., ”Johns said.

“[To] so get them [staff] try to tell an anti-wax person that they are not allowed to enter this place, I do not think I can do it with a clear conscience.

Local commissioner for Brightside Brisbane Chris Langenberg said live music venues like his had little choice but to get on board with being vaccinated.

“All of our business is in live music. If bands can’t come from the interstate or overseas because of unvaccinated people, then we will not be able to operate,” he said.

“We have struggled so much. We are at a time when it is so unsustainable, so any solution is good news for us.”

The hospitality industry expects a short-term increase in abuse

Queensland Hotels Association CEO Bernie Hogan said whether places that choose to be vaccinated only will depend on the type of venue they are and where they are located.

“[This will have] different effects for different companies in different parts of the states, “Hogan said.

He said companies relying on high-capacity figures, such as festivals, live music venues and nightclubs, are likely to find the only vaccine option as an attractive solution to months’ restrictions.

But he said some companies may be struggling to find enough vaccinated staff in the available workforce to fill out overviews, especially in areas hard hit by tourism stoppages.

Audiences make their way through some of the stalls at the Woodford Folk Festival.
Industry leaders say the move is expected to encourage young people eager to attend music festivals to be vaccinated. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

Hogan said the plan clearly aimed to encourage sluggish vaccination rates among young Queenslanders, eager to enjoy live music venues and music festivals over the summer.

He said, as with any change, he expected vaccine sites would only experience a short-term increase in the number of patrons abusing employees.

“We definitely want people who want to abuse staff … We get people to abuse employees every day of the week,” he said.

“I feel sorry for the poor employees who have to put up with other people imposing an opinion on them when all they are trying to do is complete a job and abide by the rules.”

He said the only solution was to increase vaccination rates.

“Without getting to 80-plus percent [vaccinated], realistically, Queensland is locked in and we can not get one part of Queensland to endanger the other part or be held for ransom. “

Queensland warned against ‘thinking twice’ about turning staff into ‘COVID police’

Opposition leader David Crisafulli said he did not support small business owners to become “COVID police officers”.

“You can’t constantly keep asking small and family business owners to bear all the costs, all the anger,” he said.

Crisafulli talks to the owner of a living place.
Opposition leader David Crisafulli (right) said the plan could see hospitality workers acting as “COVID police” checking customers’ vaccination status.(ABC News: Owen Jacques)

It’s a concern reiterated by Brisbane’s Lord Adrian Schrinner, who said Queensland should “think twice” about getting staff to “police” vaccinations.

“I just feel for the retail staff, the staff of the room, who must be the police about who has it and who doesn’t,” he told ABC Radio Brisbane.

“We have heard feedback from retail staff that there are several cases of verbal abuse happening at the moment.

“Things like checking in and wearing masks, there are a number of people who are just persistently protesting against it.”

Despite his concerns, the Lord Mayor welcomed the roadmap to reopen to wider Australia.

“Setting those deadlines is a really good step, because whether you’re vaccinated or not, you know the opening is coming,” Schrinner said.

“I think it will be an impulse for some people who may not have had an urgent feeling in the past to be vaccinated now.”

The government is expected to publish a detailed roadmap for local businesses by the end of the year.

Miles said the government was also considering whether unvaccinated people would be restricted from entering state-owned facilities and jobs.

For now, authorities have warned that Queensland’s Check-In app will remain a cornerstone of public excursions as the state navigates into a COVID-normal future.

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