NSW on ‘extra high alert’ for Covid-19 resurgence as hotel crackdown announced | Australia news
New South Wales is on “extra high alert” for a widespread Covid-19 resurgence and will require so-called hygiene marshals to enforce social distancing at every pub in the state.
The crackdown comes after patrons who visited a Sydney hotel at the centre of the state’s largest outbreak expressed concern over relaxed safety practices and the pub’s manager conceded more could have been done to record visitors’ contact details.
The cluster linked to the Crossroads Hotel in Casula grew to 30 cases on Tuesday evening, as the Queensland government declared the neighbouring suburbs of Liverpool and Campbelltown to be Covid-19 hotspots, and barred residents from entering the state.
The NRL told players in NSW and the ACT to reenter strict biosecurity bubbles after an emergency meeting about the resurgence of Covid-19 in the state while the South Australian premier, Steven Marshall, announced that plans to ease restrictions for travellers from NSW and the ACT next week would be abandoned.
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said in response to the outbreak there would now be a limit of 300 people in pubs and hotels and group bookings would be capped at 10 people down from 20.
“We need to take some further action to curtail some of that high-risk activity,” the premier said on Tuesday.
Under the new rules, venues with a capacity of more than 250 people will be required to have a full-time marshal on-site to enforce Covid-19 safety guidelines, while those with a capacity of less than 250 will have a marshal during peak lunch and dinner periods.
Hotels will be forced to create a digital record of patron names and phone numbers, either as an Excel or Word document, and submit it to authorities within 24 hours.
It will also be mandatory for pubs and hotels to download and register the Covid-19 safe plan and take down contact details of all patrons.
The changes – which don’t apply to clubs, restaurants or the Star casino – will come into effect from 12.01am on Friday.
The crackdown came as police announced a Jindabyne hotel had become the first licensed premises in NSW to be shut down, for 72 hours, over breaches of public health and safety. It was also fined $5,000.
Officers had issued warnings over “large groups of people failing to social distance”.
Berejiklian on Tuesday noted the state was on “extra high alert” about the threat of Victorian cases creating multiple clusters in NSW, with 14 of the cases linked to Crossroads being close contacts who hadn’t themselves visited the pub.
Many patrons who attended the hotel between 3 July and 10 July and are now self-isolating, have since expressed concern, claiming they were not asked to write down their contact details at any point during their visit.
“I was there on the Sunday night (5 July) about 5pm (and) there was no login. I walked straight in, ordered a meal, sat down and left,” one patron said.
“It was like walking into a pub pre-Covid,” another visitor said.
Chelsea Sarkis said her details were taken when she made a reservation but she was surprised at the number of people at the venue on Saturday, 4 July.
“The first thing we thought was there were way too many people here,” she said.
Jason Marlow, the manager of the Marlow Hotel group that owns the Crossroads Hotel, defended the venue, saying it had “always followed the Covid-19 management plan including social distancing measures, staff training and a strict cleaning regime” and “there has never been a capacity breach at the venue”.
During an interview earlier in the week, he said the hotel wasn’t “required to have information on everyone” who visited, and said more than 80% of guests booked online and provided their details.
On Tuesday evening, Marlow conceded contact data recording could be more thorough, telling Guardian Australia “we are now changing our system to having licence scanning equipment at all the points of entry to the Crossroads”.
The hotel remains closed with a pop-up testing clinic operating out of its car park.
Two additional cases were announced on Tuesday evening with two men in their 20s who attended the Planet Fitness gym at Casula testing positive for Covid-19.
A confirmed case from the Crossroads Hotel had visited the facility. NSW Health has now directed anyone who attended the gym between 4-10 July to self-isolate.
One of the cases linked to the hotel visited the Prestons Lodge Advantaged Care nursing home, which has now been placed into lockdown.
Another case worked at the Kmart store in Casula Mall on 10 July. A case confirmed on Monday that was linked to Crossroads Hotel also visited the Star casino in Sydney on 4 July.
The NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said other venues across Sydney may have been exposed to the virus between 27 June and 10 July after visits from people linked to the outbreak.
These include Picton Hotel, Canterbury Leagues Club, Narellan Town Centre and Zone Bowling in Villawood.
With Australian Associated Press