Greater Sydney opened up this week having reached a milestone of 80% Covid-19 vaccination rates. And this is good news, not just for those in the city who’ve endured 15 weeks of lockdown, but for the rest of New South Wales too, because it means we can start to move forward again.
Part of the NSW Government’s pandemic management response right now, is this current critical period between October 11 and December 1 2021.
In this period, there are different rules for vaccinated people and unvaccinated people.
Putting the issue of discrimination aside, which has been well-debated elsewhere, it is important to note this particular section of the Public Health (Covid-19) General Order 2021, which states:
2.18 Premises closed to unvaccinated adults
(1) The occupier of the following premises in the general area must take reasonable steps to ensure that an unvaccinated adult is not on the premises:
(a) higher risk premises,
(b) business premises that are hairdressers, spas, nail salons, beauty salons, waxing salons, tanning salons, tattoo parlours or massage parlours,
(c) recreation facilities (indoors),
(d) public swimming pools,
(e) information and education facilities,
(f) retail premises, but not critical retail premises,
(g) business premises that are auction houses,
(h) business premises that are betting agencies,
(i) gaming lounges,
(j) markets that do not predominantly sell food,
(k) properties operated by:
(i) the National Trust, or
(ii) the Historic Houses Trust.
(2) An unvaccinated adult must not be on premises referred to in subclause (1) in the general area.
(3) The occupier of higher risk premises in the general area must ensure that a person who is under 16 years of age and who is not a fully vaccinated person is not on the premises unless the person is:
(a) on the premises to carry out work, or
(b) accompanied by a person who is:
(i) a member of the person’s household, and
(ii) a fully vaccinated person.
(4) This clause does not apply to a person who is on the premises for the following purposes:
(a) because of a service to assist vulnerable members of the public, for example a food bank or a service providing for the needs of homeless persons,
(b) to purchase food or beverages to be consumed off the premises,
(c) to attend a small funeral or memorial service or small wedding service,
(d) to use a click and collect service.
(4A) This clause also does not apply to a person who is on the premises if:
(a) the premises are outside Greater Sydney, and
(b) the person resides outside Greater Sydney, and
(c) the person has had only 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and
(d) the person is on the premises for the purposes of work.
(4B) Subclause (4A) and this subclause are repealed at the beginning of 1 November 2021.
(5) In this clause— higher risk premises means the following:
(a) entertainment facilities,
(b) recreation facilities (major),
(c) hospitality venues,
(d) places of public worship,
(e) premises at which a significant event is being held, other than a small funeral or memorial service or small wedding service
Public Health Regulations keep changing
There is also additional health advice which was issued by the NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard recently:
“People aged 16 years and over will only be allowed entry into some venues or settings if fully vaccinated, along with people with exemptions.
In some venues, children under 16 will have to be accompanied by a fully vaccinated member of their household to enter. This includes hospitality venues, non-critical retail stores, personal services, sporting, recreation and entertainment facilities and events.”
Stay informed and stay calm
So, it is important that you stay informed, and you can do so at the NSW Health website.
The Government QR-Check In / Vaccination Certificate system which was going to be part of the NSW Services app is not yet operational, so many retailers are asking for other forms of vaccination verification, and if they are mentioned in the above list, they have a right to do so.
Unvaccinated people are still able to access essential services, such as grocery shops and essential medical care, but if you are a customer turned away from the pub, or a clothing shop, or even a hairdresser at this time, as difficult as it is, it is only until December 1 2021.
Many businesses are not happy about having to ‘pick and choose’ customers, but they risk fines of $5,000 for not complying with the Public Health Regulations — which is a considerable sum of money for small businesses. What’s more, individuals risk a $1,000 fine if they don’t comply, or use false vaccination certification.
Kmart and Best & Less, both which have stores in Ballina, have elected to serve vaccinated customers only, and other big retailers could decide to follow suit.
What about vaccinations for employees?
There are some industry workers in NSW who are already required to have the vaccination, such as aged care workers and emergency services personnel.
Many private companies and businesses have already put their own vaccination policies in place for staff, and others are just now considering what stance they will take. The advice given by the Fair Work Ombudsman to employers is that they can ask employees to be vaccinated, providing that the direction is ‘lawful and reasonable’.
While Covid-19 remains active in our communities, in particular the highly contagious Delta variant, police have expanded powers to enforce Public Health Rules and they are committed to doing so. If you believe you have been fired unfairly, you can take the matter to court.
This post is informative only. It is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal matter you’d like to discuss, please contact us.