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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Canberra businesses flout COVID-19 restrictions over weekend

A number of Canberra businesses were determined to have gone too far over the weekend in response to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions from noon on Friday 19 June.

The numerous business weekend breaches follow the move to Stage 2.2 of Canberra’s COVID-19 Easing of Restrictions Roadmap, which saw the limit on gatherings increase from 20 people to 100 people across all areas, within the one person per 4 square metres rule.

ACT Minister for Health, Rachel Stephen-Smith, said a significant degree of non-compliance was observed over the weekend “particularly at some large licensed venues, as well as some restaurants and local businesses”.

“This is disappointing, and it is a really important thing … While restrictions have eased, our responsibilities have not,” she said.

Access Canberra was out and about over the weekend working with hospitality businesses and businesses in other sectors that have experienced eased restrictions, such as gyms.

They attended over 100 premises last weekend, 19-21 June, having to date conducted close to 3,800 proactive and reactive engagements and checks since March, working alongside ACT Policing.

Over the weekend, on several occasions Access Canberra and ACT Policing did have to ask businesses to reduce their patron numbers.

Access Canberra executive branch manager, engagement and COVID-19 response, Emily Springett, said that to date no fines have been issued to either businesses or individuals.

Since they began working with businesses back in March, Access Canberra have written “in excess of 30,000” emails and letters to businesses to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities.

So far, five written warnings and several verbal warnings have been issued; however, following the weekend, Ms Springett anticipated that more written warnings would be distributed.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the actions taken in Victoria to wind back restrictions following a few contained outbreaks of COVID-19 should serve as a warning to Canberrans that “there is a risk that we will have to go backwards and tighten restrictions if we don’t all play our part”.

 “While we still are taking an educating and engage approach … enforcement action will be taken if that is required to ensure compliance with our restrictions.

“If we have to start tightening restrictions again, it will be the worst outcome for our small businesses.

“If you are attending a business where you think things aren’t being done appropriately, say something, but also check yourself.”

While there remains no active COVID-19 cases in the ACT following close to 26,000 tests, ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman strongly discouraged any travel to or from the Victorian local government areas of Hume, Brimbank, Moreland, Darebin, Cardinia and Casey.

Those areas were identified as coronavirus hotspots based on figures showing more than 83% of the new COVID-19 cases in Australia in the past seven days were recorded in Victoria.

“At the moment, we are strongly discouraging any travel to and from these areas, please consider this in your school holiday plans,” she said.

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