Widespread social distancing measures will have to be implemented at pubs, public transport, cinemas and local sporting ovals before they can re-open once Australia begins to ease its coronavirus lockdown measures.
Pub bosses are discussing a raft of rules to minimise social contact – including bans on communal items like cutlery, water jugs and plastic laminated menus.
A leading tourist board has also warned large hotel buffets will not be open for service – with guests favouring in-room dining during the first phase of restriction easing.
‘I think there will be a lot more in-room dining. People won’t be as keen to eat in the restaurant,’ Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson told the Sunday Telegraph.
It comes as the federal government, health experts and state leaders work on plans to restart sport and get Australians back to work ahead of a review of coronavirus restrictions on May 11.
With a vaccine yet to be developed, the Australian Hotels Association said a ‘new world order’ should be expected when pubs open their doors again.
‘They [pub owners] are thinking about anything that people touch – water jars at the end of the bar, those laminated menus, the buzzer,’ according to the association’s NSW chief executive officer John Whelan.
‘Live music is a real difficult one. Possibly seated. A lot of hotels are giving real consideration to everything. They all accept social distancing is here to stay for a while.’
Australian National University microbiologist Peter Collignon last week told Daily Mail Australia pubs and hotels may not return to normal until September – although they could re-open under strict conditions in July.
Sign-in and sign-out procedures to maintain contact tracing and a 50 per cent capacity limit at venues are among those measures being discussed by hospitality industry leaders.
The implementation of a staggered return to work could also ease the risk of transmission on buses – accompanied by a ban on standing and preventing passengers from sitting next to each other.
Temperature checks of customers and staff may also become the norm in leagues clubs and cinemas.
ClubsNSW, which represents 1,200 member venues, said patrons could be tested on arrival under a plan set to be reviewed by an infectious disease expert and then submitted to the state government for approval.
Spectators at community sports games may also have to socially-distance and keep a safe distance away from each other.
Hoyts CEO Damian Keogh is meanwhile overseeing the creation of a checklist ahead of a tentative plan to return to business for July.
The 20-point checklist features a chequerboard-based seating plan in the chain’s theatres and online payment being the only way to buy a ticket.
HOW PUBS AND CLUBS COULD RETURN TO BUSINESS
- Ban on plastic laminated menus and pub buzzers
- Seated sections only at live music events
- Maximum 50 per cent capacity to reduce transmission
- Customers to be temperature checked on entry
- Sign-in, sign-out procedure for patrons to maintain contact tracing
SOCIAL DISTANCING ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT
- Passengers must be seated at all times
- Reduced capacity through staggered start times for commuters
- Users to know whether a bus or train is full via a mobile app
- Intensive cleaning of train carriages and buses.
- This would include sterilising commonly touched areas like tap-on pads and hand railings
It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison works on plans to restart sport and get Australians back to work, he announced today after a national cabinet meeting.
The prime minister said health experts will release guidance on how to make professional and community sport safe.
‘Community sport is such an important part of our way of life here in Australia, and these principles can help guide decisions by states and territories in the future,’ he said.
The NRL has already announced plans to resume the season on 28 May, although the exact arrangements are yet to be revealed.
Mr Morrison said experts will also release principles that businesses can follow make workplaces safe to return to.
The guidance will advise what workers should do if one of their colleagues gets coronavirus.
‘We also agreed National COVID-19 safe workplace principles. This is all about getting Australians back to work,’ the Prime Minister said.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said the National Cabinet has asked experts to provide ‘recommendations for gently, carefully, cautiously relaxing distancing measures’.
This could involve relaxing restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather in public, he said.
REDUCED CROWDS IN CINEMAS
- Seating plan based on a chequerboard to reduce overcrowding in movie theatres
- Closure of box offices and online payment only
- Temperature checks for staff
FEWER SERVICES IN HOTELS
- High-contact services like hotel buffets could be banned to prevent transmission
- If they remain in place, staff will have to serve the food
- COVID-19 training courses for staff
Professor Murphy also announced that every state and territory now has the capacity to test everyone who has coronavirus symptoms.
He also praised the government’s contact tracing app which is due to be rolled out next week.
‘We’re putting in place the world’s best testing and public health and surveillance regime before we relax any measures,’ he said when asked if he feared a second wave of the virus erupting in Australia.
‘No Australian wants to see hundreds of people dying a day from coronavirus.
‘We are not prepared to see that, and that’s why we are being so cautious, and we are putting in these extraordinary surveillance measures.
‘We want to be testing 40,000, 50,000 Australians a day if necessary.’
Mr Morrison also warned aged care homes to stop preventing residents from seeing family.
Aged care homes may have to seek a special exemption if they want to ban visitors or confine residents to their rooms, he said.
Mr Morrison said if facilities that had gone beyond baseline coronavirus requirements did not return to that level and allow each resident two visitors a day, his government would make it mandatory.
Mr Morrison said nursing homes would have to argue why they had a ‘very real and serious medical reason’ to need a tighter lockdown.
Finally, he said Parliament will sit on 12, 13 and 14 May to pass ‘a couple’ bills relating to coronavirus.
On Thursday, Professor Murphy said going shopping with friends and team sport could be allowed again when the National Cabinet reviews coronavirus restrictions on May 11.
He suggested the national guidance that prevents gatherings of more than two people in public could be relaxed to allow friends and families to come together.
But Professor Murphy said larger gatherings such concerts and festivals – as well as international travel – were out of the question.
‘We certainly would not be contemplating large-scale gatherings. But certainly, some relaxation of the size of small groups is possible,’ he told the senate select committee scrutinising the government’s virus response.
‘There are a range of measures that [the National Cabinet has] asked us to consider – things like community sport, some retail measures.
‘All of those things will be in the mix. But we’ll have to weigh up the public health risk versus the benefit to society and the economy.’