The next phase of the federal government’s four-stage plan to reopen the economy and retire lockdowns is set to be triggered once 70 per cent of eligible adults have been fully vaccinated. However, in NSW the premier has indicated that some restrictions could be allowed to ease once 50 per cent of eligible adults are double jabbed. In a submission to the NSW government from the Restaurant and Catering Association, which was leaked to the Sun-Herald, NSW’s hospo businesses have made a case for allowing eateries and bars to reopen for outdoor dining and limited indoor capacities for fully vaccinated patrons only, once 50 per cent of the adult population is covered. Staff at hospo venues would also only be allowed to work once fully vaccinated, according to the RCA proposal.
The “no jab, no entry” approach is also being supported by the Australian Hotels Association, with AHA NSW director John Green saying: “We would support a platform where staff and patrons had to be vaccinated if that allowed us to reopen sooner.” In order to achieve the high levels of vaccination among hospo professionals that would be required for the proposal to work, the AHA has called for special vaccination drives to be arranged, similar to those already actioned for tradies and supermarket workers.
If accepted, the proposal could mean hospo venues could reopen as soon as early to mid-September. However, it is unclear if the 50 per cent vaccination target is still being considered in NSW as being sufficient protection to allow lockdown settings to change. Despite the premier saying that “certain freedoms” might be unlocked at this level, both the federal chief medical officer Paul Kelly, NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant and NSW health minister Brad Hazzard have said that, given the high transmissibility of the Delta variant, a minimum of 70 per cent of adults would need to be double jabbed before any restrictions could being relaxing.
The AHA has suggested that relaxing lockdown rules could be done on an LGA by LGA basis, allowing businesses in areas where there are high levels of vaccination and low levels of community transmission to begin trading again. The RCA, on the other hand, has suggested that outdoor dining be allowed to recommence at 50 per cent vaccination levels, as this is a low-risk setting. It has also requested reopening grants of $15,000 to $25,000 and for the state to offer 72-hour fast-tracked outdoor dining permits plus grants of up to $5,000 for businesses to invest in appropriate outdoor tables, chairs and umbrellas.