The New South Wales Government has threatened ‘gaol time’ for unvaccinated people who attempt to enter venues in breach of forthcoming public health orders, which will limit entry to vaccinated persons only.
The warning comes somewhat ironically on the back of the government’s announcement that from 1 December 2021, unvaccinated people will have the same ‘freedoms’ as those who are vaccinated.
Warning to business owners
NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello, who has been overseeing the development of the digital vaccination passports that is due to be rolled out in coming weeks, has also warned businesses they will be required to immediately report any instance of an unvaccinated person attempting or gaining entry to police, or face legal consequences.
The government’s new system will link COVID vaccination status with QR Code check-ins at venues across the state, such as shop, restaurants, bars and pubs, gyms and sporting and other entertainment venues.
Ever-expanding public health orders
The full details of the COVID passport are yet to be released, but the new rules are expected to be added to ever-expanding public health orders in New South Wales.
But one thing is certain – COVID passports are seen by the government as an integral part of its ‘road map’ forward, as the state begins to open up after months of lockdowns in Greater Sydney.
Businesses expected to police COVID rules
Many businesses have expressed concerns about their role in policing the vaccination passports and in response, the Minister says it is not businesses’ role to do so, and to call the police on anyone who fails to use the QR check-in, or who enters premises without being vaccinated.
Over the past 18 months, retail workers have been on the receiving end of a lot of backlash over COVID-19 rules, from social distancing and mask wearing to QR code check-ins.
There have been cases where customers have become aggressive and assaulted staff. It’s only natural that businesses fear that problems will escalate when pubs, cafes, hairdressers and other venues are allowed to reopen to fully vaccinated customers.
Data from the National Retail Association, which represents more than 1 million workers in more than 24,000 retail and fast food outlets across Australia, shows that incidents of violence towards retail and hospitality staff have increased dramatically across New South Wales and Victoria during the pandemic, mostly in relation to public health orders.
Victorian retailers reported an 85 per cent year-on-year increase in reported events with threatening behaviour in 2021.
In New South Wales, incidents of customers threatening staff are up 19 per cent year on year.