“COVID safety marshals” to preside over NSW pubs as restrictions are tightened following Sydney cluster

COVID-19 rules

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Source: AAP/Joel Carrett.

Pub owners in New South Wales are this morning dealing with the prospect of tougher trading restrictions after a COVID-19 cluster in south west Sydney raised alarm bells.

The Berejiklian government says group bookings at pubs will be reduced from 20 people to 10 and large venues will be capped to 300 customers from Thursday night. Meanwhile, marshals will be stationed at venues to ensure social distancing and other safety measures are followed.

The tighter restrictions apply to pubs only, not restaurants and cafes, and come after 21 confirmed coronavirus cases emerged from an outbreak at the Crossroads Hotel in Casula.

All NSW pubs will also be required to download COVID Safe plans and register them with Services NSW by Thursday night.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who last week opted against tightening restrictions, told reporters on Tuesday the state remained on “high alert”.

“We know from the health advice we’ve received from the beginning of the pandemic, that indoor activity, where people aren’t seated is a huge health risk,” Berejiklian said.

Full-time marshals will be placed in venues with capacity for 250 people or more to ensure COVIDSafe measures, including social distancing, are being followed.

Smaller venues will host a “COVID-safe person” during peak times to carry out many of the same duties as marshals for larger venues.

“Whether we like it or not, the reality is that life is not normal and it will not be normal until we have a vaccine or a cure,” Berejiklian said.

The Premier applauded the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) for taking a “proactive approach” to the tighter restrictions, with the Association coming forward itself to suggest reduce booking limits.

“It was actually the AHA’s advice to us which said that if you reduce bookings from from 20 to 10, it reduces the likelihood for people who may mingle, that when you have a group of 10, the likelihood that everybody stays seated and that behaviour will continue is a safe option,” Berejiklian said.

John Whelan, chief executive of AHA NSW, says the COVID safety marshals will improve hygiene practices in larger pubs.

“For the larger venues particularly we think that will really enhance safety within the venue in terms of social distancing, in terms of hygiene, in terms of cleaning in the venue,” he said.

“We also think that it will actually make our patrons feel more comfortable coming to the venue knowing that venue has taken that extra step to ensure it’s a safe venue.”

The tighter restrictions in NSW come as Queensland and South Australia re-assess their border restrictions with Australia’s most populous state, amid concern a second wave of COVID-19 infections in Victoria may be spreading north.

Queensland declared several areas in NSW “hotspots” on Tuesday and will bar entry to any non-residents traveling from those areas from midday.

South Australia moved to delay the date for its border re-opening with NSW on Wednesday, pushing the date back from the previously scheduled easing on July 20.

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