COVID Safe Summer – What to Expect During the Coming Months

By: Najam Ahmed - HospitalityHub
08 November, 2021

The global COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on the Australian economy. As the virus spread across the globe, COVID-19 cases remained relatively low up until February 2020.

The Australian policy to fight against COVID-19 largely hinged on two main strategies: restrictions and travel bans. Australia banned travel from several countries, with many of the strategies adopted from the country’s action plans for handling an influenza outbreak. 

However, things have changed largely over the past one and a half years. Vaccination rates are rising, and the country has been slowly opening up again. 

Hospitality businesses across the country were heavily affected since lockdowns were implemented across the country from March 2020. The decline in both interstate and international tourism had a major impact on the hospitality sector. 

Hotel services have faced a major decline, with occupancy rates dipping to under 60%. However, things are picking back up. The Australian foodservice market is expected to grow by a CAGR of 5.16% during 2021 and 2026. As we move into the summer of 2021, states throughout the country are expected to make major changes. 

In the following article, we shall review the policies adopted by different states.

 

New South Wales

Cases in New South Wales rose sharply in July 2021, which caused the state government to double down on vaccination rates. On September 27th, the government announced they were going to gradually relax state restrictions, using a two-tiered system. Different rules for the vaccinated and unvaccinated being imposed from the 11th October.

In NSW, just over 90% of the population (aged 16+) is vaccinated, thus prompting the reopening. Hospitality businesses like restaurants must abide by the following directives:

  • Indoor drinking must be seated. Outdoors, people can stand or sit as they please.
  • Masks are mandatory for all customers and staff indoors (no longer needed in outdoor settings).
  • Proof of vaccination and COVID Safe check-ins needed.
  • Venues can now have an increased density limit of up to 20 people per booking. Only vaccinated people are allowed for dining (takeaway only for those who are not fully vaccinated). 

Tips to Comply with NSW Requirements

As you can tell, NSW is still being slowly reopened. There are strict penalties and fines in case these orders are breached. Here are a few tips to ensure your hospitality business can reopen safely:

Set up a reception desk to allow check-ins with the Service NSW app and check their vaccination evidence. Set up QR code scanners for maintaining accurate and contactless check-in records.

 

Victoria

Victoria suffered a major outbreak in the third quarter of 2021, causing the government to impose a 15th October deadline for all workers on the Authorized Worker list to get their first vaccination shot. Premier Daniel Andrews announced that Melbourne will be ending its lockdown. 

However, strict measures are in place. It’s the first state to require all MPs to get vaccinated, otherwise be barred from entering parliament. Workers are also required to show evidence of their first vaccination or proof that they have booked an appointment before October 22nd. 

Employers are responsible for checking vaccination evidence from all hospitality workers. Apart from that, the following restrictions are in place:

  • Anyone above the age of 12 must wear a face mask when they leave their houses.
  • Every business is required to use the QR Code Service to check-in customers and workers. Every individual is supposed to check-in, regardless of the duration of their stay.
  • QR codes must be displayed at prominent locations.
  • Restaurants are open only for takeaway and delivery. 
  • Even in food courts, indoor or outdoor seated areas generally accessible to the public are barred from operations. 

Tips to Comply with Victorian Government’s Requirements

  • Invest in outdoor furniture to accommodate increased footfall.
  • Set up separate stations for managing takeaways and deliveries.
  • Ensure a proper reception area for check-ins and to check vaccination statuses.
  • Optimize indoor dining spaces (indoor dining is expected to open when the state reaches its 80% vaccination benchmark).

 

Queensland 

Queensland suffered an influx of cases earlier, but that has dropped considerably. Since the past two quarters, QLD hasn’t seen much of a rise, which is why from 8th October 2021, Stage 3 restrictions became applicable throughout Queensland. Mask requirements are in place for South East Queensland, however.

Hospitality businesses are required to comply with the COVID Safe Checklist. Businesses are now required to operate under the COVID Safe Industry Plan or any “industry specific” checklists. Here are the requirements still in place, apart from following the COVID Safe Checklist:

  • Patrons are required to wear a mask when arriving or departing a hospitality venue. 
  • 1.5m physical distancing should be maintained if possible. Ensure there’s one person per 2 meters squared. 
  • Face masks must be worn indoors at all times. 

Tips to Comply with QLD Government’s Requirements

There are several simple steps that businesses can take to comply with Stage 3 of the QLD government’s requirements. Here are a few steps that businesses can take:

  • Since there are no density restrictions for outdoor venues, you can invest in outdoor furniture to accommodate more people.
  • Set up a reception desk to allow for check-ins and to collect information from takeaway customers.
  • Set up hand sanitizing stations and handwashing facilities.
  • Indoor venues are allowed to accommodate 1 per 2 sq. meters. Change the seating plan accordingly to ensure you are able to maximize the available space.

 

South Australia

South Australia has recorded a total of 918 cases so far, with 4 deaths. Because of the rate of infection, the state is under Level 1 restrictions, with a few additional restrictions in place as well. The SA health chief executive doesn’t expect borders to open by Christmas, either.

Vaccination rates are high, with just over 70% of the population fully vaccinated. At the moment, businesses are required to:

  • Operate at 3/4th density.
  • Food and beverage consumption must be seated at indoor public activities. 
  • Allow customers to stand if they are outside (1 person per 2 square meters). 
  • Ban shisha. 
  • Contact tracing is mandatory. 
  • Ensure masks are worn indoors in public places. 

How to Comply with SA’s COVID-19 Directives

Here are some steps that businesses can take to comply with SA’s COVID-19 directives:

  • Optimize seating space to operate at 75% capacity. 
  • Outdoor dining is allowed, so if you have the space, invest in outdoor furniture.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect all furniture, exposed surfaces, and equipment. 
  • Check vaccinations for all staff.

 

Western Australia

As the first wave entered Australia in February last year, WA was in a fairly good position to tackle the pandemic. It is geographically isolated from most COVID-hit countries, which gave it a strong advantage. 

Both the state and the federal government played a critical role in managing the outbreak. They eased restrictions on gatherings by 27th April, up to a maximum of 10 people. By 6th June, gatherings were eased to 300 people outdoors, and a limit of 100 indoors was imposed. Currently, there are no capacity limits, though a contact register must be maintained by most businesses.

However, hospitality businesses still need to take appropriate measures to comply with the COVID-19 Safety Guidelines. These include:

  • Following an increased cleaning and sanitation regimen; regularly washing hands using soap or hand sanitiser. 
  • Use of PPE (personal protective equipment) is encouraged for certain services and interactions.
  • Businesses must encourage patrons to sanitize their hands when they arrive at the premises.
  • Use of queue management systems is encouraged to prevent crowds outside the premises.

Tips for WA Businesses to Comply with Requirements

WA has faced relatively less disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some tips for businesses to comply with these requirements:

 

Northern Territory

Like WA, the Northern Territory also faced minimal disruption due to COVID-19. All businesses must lodge a COVID-19 Safety Plan, which must be submitted online. 

Businesses are required to review their Plans after every six months and show them to an authorized office when requested. Businesses must:

  • Make hand sanitisers available to customers or ensure appropriate hand washing facilities are present. 
  • Maintain social distancing by seating patrons at tables at least 1.5 meters apart. 
  • Use hygienic products to keep the equipment and surfaces clean.

How to Comply with NT Requirements

Wearing masks is not mandatory in NT. However, it’s highly recommended. Apart from that, here’s what businesses can do to comply with the CHO’s Directives:

  • Set up proper hand sanitising and washing facilities. 
  • Make gloves available to staff.
  • Use outdoor furniture to mitigate crowding around the business front.
  • Add adequate signage to let customers know about hygiene practices and reduce crowding. 
  • Use chlorine-based (1000ppm) disinfectants to regularly clean equipment and facilities. 
  • Widen counters, to serve as physical barriers.
  • Promote cashless payments whenever possible.

 

Tasmania

Tasmania’s been open for a long time now and suffered very little disruption due to the pandemic. All businesses must conduct a risk assessment to identify risks associated with the virus and list down measures to mitigate those risks. The COVID Safe Workplace Guidelines have been updated by WorkSafe Tasmania.

Businesses are required to:

  • Ensure hygiene throughout the premises.
  • Maintain physical distancing.
  • Impose restrictions on entry to highlight COVID controls.
  • Train staff about COVID-19 response protocols.

Tips to Comply with Tasmanian Requirements

Here’s what businesses can do to comply with these requirements:

  • Set up physical barriers or counters or change the layout to impose physical distancing with floor markings.
  • Set up hand sanitising dispensers and disinfectant stations. Ensure cleaning cloths are available for staff to dry out surfaces.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces like door handles or railings.

 

Australian Capital Territory

After the Delta outbreak, the Australian Capital Territory went into lockdown, which was lifted on October 14th, 2021. Contact tracing is still active throughout ACT, along with other requirements:

  • Masks are mandatory both indoors and outdoors.
  • The CBR app must be used for contact tracing.

Since the lockdown has ended, licensed venues are now allowed to:

  • Seat customers both indoors and outdoors (1 person per 4 square meters, or 25 people, whichever is less).
  • For outdoor seating, a maximum of 50 people are allowed, or 1 person per 4 square meters, whichever is less. However, if businesses opt to seat people outdoors, they mustn’t allow customers the indoor space. 
  • Gyms, pools, and play centres have all opened up. 
  • Food courts are only allowed to offer takeaway.

How to Comply with the ACT Government’s Requirements

Since ACT is no longer in lockdown, businesses will just want to make sure of the following key things:

  • Ensure customers remain seated while indoors or outdoors. Investment in outdoor and indoor furniture, as well as wall-mounted tables can maximize indoor seating space.
  • Maintain proper cleaning and hygienic practices. This means regularly cleaning and disinfecting tables, furniture, and equipment.
  • Ensure PPE is available for workers, including masks for patrons. 
  • Set up hand sanitising stations.

 

Adjusting to the New Normal

While both the federal and state governments are taking steps to bring life back to normal as soon as possible, it’s easy to say that things aren’t going to revert overnight. Adjusting to the new normal is essential, so both businesses and patrons must play an important role in making sure that they abide by the rules set by the government.