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Photograph: Towfiqu barbhuiya/Unsplash

Sydney businesses are already announcing ‘no jab, no entry’ policies when they reopen

A Surry Hills fitness studio is one of the first businesses in Sydney to make vaccination a condition of entry

Maxim Boon
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Maxim Boon
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Cycology, a spin-cycle fitness studio based on Bourke Street in the heart of Surry Hills, has become one of the first Sydney businesses to make vaccination a condition of entry. It posted an announcement on its Instagram account on August 6 announcing that once lockdown restrictions lift enough to reopen, it will only allow vaccinated patrons to enter. 

As well as notifying members of the new conditions, the post also included information about how anyone over the age of 16 can access a vaccine in the local area.

As yet, there has been no formal advice from either the federal or state governments about whether businesses should make vaccination a condition of entry. However, Cycology owner David Finnimore said that businesses like his were particularly vulnerable to rolling lockdowns. 

“As we all are aware, in order for the states to reopen, we have to encourage as many people to be vaccinated as possible. And I think that small businesses of all types have a role to play in encouraging that. But it’s particularly important to me because of the nature of my business. When people are training in close proximity that inherently identifies a venue like ours as having a significant risk of transmission,” Finnimore says. 

“The other lines of defence – wearing a mask and social distancing – compromises our offering and what our clients expect, so we can't continue to get back to what we used to do and offer the same level of service if the only things that are mandated fundamentally don’t make sense in our business. We can't have Covid in our businesses in Sydney. I can’t put my clients or my staff at risk like that.”

Finnimore said that his post had received positive feedback from members of his spin studio, but it had also attracted a lot of comments from anti-vaxxers. “Everyone's entitled to their opinion. But yeah, it's just mind-boggling to me that there are people who still don’t realise what we’re up against and what it’s going to take to get back to some kind of normal way of life,” Finnimore adds.

In leaked details of NSW’s plans for reopening the state once 50 per cent vaccination levels are reached, fitness studios and gyms could be among of the first businesses to be allowed to reopen, with certain restrictions in place. Billy Kokkinis, owner of City Gym and one of the highest-profile business leaders in Sydney’s fitness sector, said it was important to follow the state’s medical advice in order to keep his staff and members safe. 

“I have personally had the jab and am fully vaccinated. I follow the science and data, which suggests this is the best way for me to protect my loved ones, the City Gym community, and the community at large. I understand not everyone is comfortable with a mandated vaccine. We live in a democratic society, and people are entitled to their beliefs. Having said that, we are living through an unprecedented global pandemic and may not have the luxury of rejecting the jab, if we want to return to a form of normality,” Kokkinis said. “Our number one priority is keeping our members safe, and we will be guided by the data on how to do so.”

Elsewhere around the world, the question of barring the unvaccinated from certain high-risk settings has become a major point of public contention. In the UK, vaccine passports will be necessary for accessing entertainment venues like nightclubs, where social distancing is not enforceable, from September. 

In France, where vaccine hesitancy and anti-vax rhetoric has been particularly divisive, a “health pass” is now required by anyone over the age of 12 to access restaurants, bars, and public transport, including flights. Venues that can accommodate more than 50 people can also refuse entry to anyone who is unvaccinated. 

Israel was one of the first nations to introduce a vaccine pass to enter public venues such as restaurants and shops. It retired the pass in early 2021 once infection rates began to decline, however after a surge of new cases amongst unvaccinated people, the health pass is now due to be reinstated in September. 

China has one of the world's most technologically sophisticated health pass systems. A unique QR code tracks a person’s vaccination status, when they were last tested or if they have been near a confirmed outbreak. This means even fully vaccinated people can be instructed to isolate when they have come into contact with the virus. 

The US is a particularly interesting case study for Australia since restrictions and health mandates are largely up to individual states to enforce. While there is no federal ruling on making vaccination a condition of entry, several states have begun introducing local rules to incentivise more people to get the jab. The US is currently experiencing a major surge in hospitalisations and deaths amongst unvaccinated people. 

While in Australia, no formal rights have been attached to vaccination status, tourism minister Dan Tehan recently said that vaccination passports might be introduced to allow interstate travel to resume. Digital vaccination certificates are now available via MyGov accounts, which can be stored in a digital wallet. The national cabinet agreed on August 6 to follow the federal government's four-phase roadmap for ending lockdowns and reopening borders, which requires at least 70 per cent of eligible adults over the age of 16 to be vaccinated before restrictions and stay-at-home orders can be eased. 

You can follow how the national vaccination rollout is progressing in real time, thanks to this handy online tracker.

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