For the past several weeks, premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeated a familiar refrain on an almost daily basis: NSW is on high alert. In recent days, her tone has increased in urgency, saying that state is on a "knife edge" and at “high risk” of succumbing to a second wave surge if safety measures aren't observed.
However, despite these grim warnings, several hospitality venues across Sydney have failed to comply with the safety mandates put in place to keep their patrons safe. To date, 27 venues have been fined a total of $152,500 for not following guidelines. Moreover, compliance inspectors are now beginning to catch repeat offenders, who despite fines and warnings continue to put their punters, and by extension the whole of Sydney, in danger.
The Garry Owen Hotel in Rozelle has now been fined $10,000 for twice failing to comply with health guidelines. Inspectors found on two separate occasions that almost every current regulation was being ignored, labelling the venue as “the worst pub seen so far”. The Garry Owen Hotel failed to register as a CovidSafe venue – now a mandatory requirement for all hospitality venues in the state – and had no safety plan in place. It was also found to be understaffed, not taking the contact details of patrons, not ensuring capacity limits were maintained and not enforcing table service or physical distancing. There were also concerns about the sanitation regime in place at the pub.
The Yai Thai kitchen in Gosford was also fined for the second time in a fortnight, picking up a $1,000 fine for not following adequate sanitation practices before receiving a further $500 fine for further breaches on a second inspection.
NSW Liquor and Gaming has now said that there would be no more second chances for venues found to be breaking the rules and that if CovidSafe plans were not being followed, venues could be forced to temporarily close as a penalty in addition to receiving fines.
While numbers of new cases have remained relatively stable in recent weeks, they have been slowly creeping up over time. On August 11, NSW recorded 22 new cases, its highest daily increase since April. There are also a small yet stubborn number of untraced infections, leading authorities to suspect that asymptomatic yet infectious people are still circulating in the community undetected.