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16 November, 2021

Mandate backs businesses into corner

BUSINESSES across the Tablelands are bracing for the introduction of State Government bans that will prevent unvaccinated people from entering venues, outdoor events and hospitals.

By Rhys Thomas

Priceline Pharmacy Mareeba’s Mark Hope (right) administeres COVID vaccine to managing director of The Express Newspaper Carl Portella.

People are scrambling to get vaccinated before the bans become effective on 17 December, with pharmacists reporting significant increases in demand for vaccinations over the past week.

When Queensland hits the 80 per cent double dose target, expected to be 17 December, unvaccinated patrons will be denied entry to cafes, festivals, bars, cinemas, clubs, aged care homes, hospitals, and disability services.

People who are not vaccinated will only be able to enter hospitals in end-of-life or emergency situations. Steep fines will be imposed on anyone flouting the rules. 

In good news for venues, the new directive will lift the current density rules applied on them. 

The bans have rattled Tolga’s Cottage Café owner Josh Wallace who can foresee many problems trying to enforce the bans and information on how it will work has not been clear. 

“We don’t have enough of a staff pool to do all this checking and we have two entrances so we will have to monitor both of them,” he said. 

“We also have an ageing population up here and a lot of our customers don’t have a smart phone so I’m not sure how we will check their vaccine status.”

He said the checking would take extra time to serve customers which was important when many workers only had 30 minutes for lunch. 

“I don’t know how the police are going to enforce this either – they are already short-staffed and should be focussing on crime,” he said. 

With little detailed information coming from Queensland Health to businesses, he was unsure as to how cafes such as his would manage takeaways. 

“If people order fish and chips and then come to pick them up and they are not vaccinated, then we can’t let them in and do we just throw the food away?” 

Nastasi’s Takeaway in Mareeba owner Karen Eyin is concerned that the new mandate will force her to find new staff, even though she is already scrambling for workers. 

“We’ve all got to make a living and at the moment I’m scrambling for workers, I can’t get night staff, I’m flatout getting day staff,” she said.

“Now have I got to pay someone who is basically inert to stand at the door and check if people are vaccinated?

“How on earth are we supposed to manage with low staff numbers? Even if this mandate wasn’t in place, we’re already in a hard place. 

“If they want us to do stuff like this, they (the Government) need to get their finger out quick smart and put some protocols in place.” 

The Humpy retail manager Colleen Alba who, along with other local business owners, feel uneasy about the mandate because they will be forced to impose and enforce rules on their customers.

“It was a really big bombshell and I’m uneasy… I’ve got staff who are both vaccinated and unvaccinated – until two days ago, our policy was ‘we are accepting, our business is open and we do not discriminate’,” she said. 

“It isn’t something we are happy to enforce because we are big advocates for our community.

“We have never put any of our staff or customers at risk but what they are enforcing is not lawful, a lot of local businesses feel the same way.” 

Currently 69.9 per cent of Queenslanders are fully vaccinated, and as of last Friday, 55.4 per cent in the Mareeba Shire and 64.7 per cent in the Tablelands local government area. 

Under the new mandate Queenslanders will need to provide their vaccination certificate as proof of their vaccination, with vaccination certificates to be linked to the Check-In Qld app from 17 November so venues can check patrons’ vaccination status before they enter the premises. 

State Member for Hill Shane Knuth is openly outraged at the state’s mandate, claiming it is tantamount to segregation. 

Mr Knuth said since the beginning of the pandemic, Katter’s Australia Party had stood for personal freedoms and the freedom to choose to be vaccinated or unvaccinated. 

“Businesses are telling me that they have staff who are medically unable to get vaccinated and will now lose valuable employees because of the government’s mandate,” he said. 

“The tourism industry, cafes, pubs and clubs have already suffered enough and are now feeling pressured to enforce and police patrons visiting their premises.”

While the Queensland Police Service does not expect business owners and employees to act as police, they do expect them to understand and abide by their obligations.

“If business operators experience difficult customers who refuse to comply with the rules or leave the premises, they can contact police and we can assist,” a police spokesperson said. 

“There are fines of $1,378 for individuals and $6,892 for business which fail to comply with the public health directions. 

“Further action can also be taken depending on the circumstances of the matter.” 

Priceline Pharmacy managing partner Mark Hope said both his pharmacy and Wholelife Pharmacy in Mareeba had been flat out administering vaccines since the Premier’s mandate announcement. 

From 5-11 November, the two pharmacies administered a total of 253 vaccines. 

“There has been a solid increase in people coming in for their vaccines since the Premier’s mandate announcement,” Mr Hope said.

“But we have more than enough vaccines to cope with this increased demand.”

In light of the recent announcement Malanda resident Mark Lachlan has launched a petition allowing people to express their objection to the bans.

He hopes the petition will cause the State Government to change its decision. 

The petition can be found below.

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