by ALEC SMART
In what Prime Minister Scott Morrison described as “an early mark,” the start of May saw retailers across Australia reopening their stores as restrictions implemented during the last five weeks of the Covid-19 clampdown were relaxed.
Traders are permitted to operate if they implement and maintain strict health and safety policies. These include regular cleansing of high-touch surfaces (such as hand rails, door handles and elevator buttons), the provision of abundant sanitiser for staff and customers to sterilise their hands, limitations to the number of people on the premises at the same time, and ensuring customers retain safe social distancing.
At the end of April, Australia dropped below an average of 20 new Covid-19 cases reported per day, suggesting the nation has ‘flattened the curve’ of coronavirus transmission. Subsequently, from 1 May, visitation rules were relaxed to allow a maximum of two adults and their children to enter another household without violating social distancing restrictions.
However, businesses that rely on close physical contact between people – such as nail and beauty salons, hairdressers/barbers, spas, massage and tattoo parlours – remain prohibited from operating, at least until June 5 when the situation will be reviewed.
All national parks and sports reserves remain closed, although most suburban parks are still open for exercise whilst gym equipment and children’s playground facilities (climbing frames, slides, etc) are still taped-off.
Holiday homes remain off-limits though, as holidaying is still listed among ‘unacceptable’ reasons for leaving home.
Licensed pubs and bars, restaurants and cafes are expected to open soon, but only if patrons order a meal and leave within two hours. Sports facilities and gyms could also reopen before the end of May if they follow strict health and safety guidelines.
Outdoor events such as weddings and funerals will also be allowed an unrestricted number of participants.
Real estate agents are permitted to recommence housing inspections and public auctions in an attempt to bolster the stalled housing market.
Chain stores, such as Kathmandu, have reopened the majority of their outlets, but troubled retail giant Myers, which shut their 60 nationwide stores on 29 March and stood down 10,000 staff, have delayed reopening until 11 May, missing one of the retail industry’s best trading days – 10 May, Mother’s Day. Premier Investments’ group of stores, including Just Jeans, Portmans, Smiggle and Peter Alexander, are also delaying reopening their outlets.
Waverley Council-run Bondi, Bronte and Tamarama beaches are currently open on weekdays only between 7am and 5pm, with the council considering an extension for weekends. Of the three, Tamarama is only for surfers while Bondi and Bronte are exercise-swimming and surfing only, with access to the sand strictly prohibited.
Randwick Council-run Clovelly, Coogee and Maroubra beaches are open during the same hours – 7am to 5pm – seven days a week, for exercise-swimming and surfing as well as jogging/walking along the sand. Other Randwick Council-run beaches to the south remain closed, although beaches further south of Botany Bay and north of Sydney Harbour remain open for exercise-only activities.
Fishing and golf remain acceptable exercise if social distancing is followed (participants remain at least 1.5 metres apart), and permission has been extended to allow some non-contact sports with a limit of two persons, such as tennis, to restart.
Professional sports athletes are returning to group training in the hope that team games such as Aussie Rules football, netball and soccer can resume in the near-future. Sydney’s National Rugby League (NRL) players, are aiming to resume the coronavirus-stalled 20-round competition on 28 May with a late-season 25 Oct Grand Final.
New Zealand Warriors rugby league players made emotional farewells to their families and friends at Auckland Airport on 3 May after the team were granted dispensation to enter Australia to compete in a resumed NRL competition. They caught a chartered flight directly to Tamworth, where they are undergoing a 14-day quarantine before relocating to a base on the NSW Central Coast. But Warriors’ centre David Fusitu’a and hooker Nathaniel Roache remained in Auckland, the former on compassionate grounds, the latter for suspected Covid-19 infection.
New Zealand recorded a significant reduction in coronavirus cases after it enforced one of the world’s toughest clampdowns on travel and social distancing – of 1487 confirmed cases (resulting in just 20 deaths), less than 200 are still recovering, with no new infections reported. However, because of New Zealand’s strict policy, the Warriors, the only foreign team in Australia’s NRL competition, may be prevented from returning home from Australia until after the football season ends in late October.
Trent Robinson, coach of reigning premiers Sydney Roosters, was unable to greet players returning to training after he submitted to medical tests on 4 May for suspected Covid-19 symptoms. Latrell Mitchell, South Sydney Rabbitohs’ trouble-prone new signing, and three other Rabbitohs’ players were also sent for Covid-19 testing after they also reported similar symptoms.
Fines for coronavirus breaches
Mitchell was recently fined $50,000 but escaped suspension for hosting a camping trip at the end of April on his NSW country property near Taree, which broke social distancing rules. Eleven others participated, including fellow NRL players Josh Addo-Carr of Melbourne Storm (also fined $50,000) and Tyronne Roberts-Davis of Newcastle Knights (fined $10,000). They’ve also been prohibited from playing one match each.
Josh Addo-Carr posted a group photo of the gathering on his Instagram page (along with video footage of him firing a gun, which also landed him and Mitchell in hot water for firearms violations. Mitchell and Addo-Carr were both issued with Future Court Attendance Notices, the former for loaning his firearm to an unauthorised user, the latter for unauthorised use of a firearm. Mitchell’s firearms licence is now suspended and he was ordered to surrender a number of guns to police).
Nathan Cleary of Penrith Panthers was also hit with a $10,000 fine for breaching coronavirus regulations after video footage was broadcast on TikTok social media showing him dancing with five women at a house party.
Meanwhile, NSW Police continue to issue Public Infringement Notices (PINs) to individuals failing to comply with the Covid-19 Public Health Order restrictions on limited social gatherings.
Between 29 April and 4 May, those issued with $1000 PIN fines (some also charged with other offences), included:
* Two men involved in a fist-fight in Darlinghurst – one of whom allegedly twice spat on an arresting officer.
* A 63-year-old man issued with a second PIN after he was caught drinking in an alcohol-free zone in Redfern.
* Two men and a woman reportedly intimidating a resident at a house in Liverpool.
* A woman stopped for driving erratically in Dulwich Hill whose vehicle was allegedly found with a small number of illicit drugs.
* A man challenged for allegedly stealing in Tuggerah Westfield Shopping Centre who spat on a woman store employee.
* A Warwick Farm man driving in Haymarket in the city without a reasonable excuse.
* Two men taking illicit drugs in a public toilet in Kirrawee.
* A 51-year-old woman who allegedly spat at an 18-year-old employee at a fast food restaurant after her credit card failed, then smashed the glass door upon exiting and later allegedly coughed into the face of a senior police officer.
* A 13-year-old girl who allegedly spat on a 52-year-old female bus driver at Cremorne Junction after she’d been spoken to with her two friends.
In other Covid-related incidents a 16-year-old boy was also arrested and charged with assault after spitting on a train guard at Canley Vale; a food delivery rider was assaulted by two men in their 20s at Mount Druitt and had his bike stolen. His assailants were later arrested; Two teenagers were charged after allegedly spitting and assaulting train staff at Blacktown Railway Station; and a Rydalmere man was arrested at Lidcombe Station for Impersonating a Police Officer after he produced a police badge and stopped and searched up to 10 people in the vicinity.