No contact records, no safe distance as businesses flout COVID-safe rules


Katey Randall, who works for a company that helps businesses become COVID-compliant, said she had visited a hairdresser and beauty salon in a private capacity on Wednesday morning and had not been asked to provide any details for contact tracing.

“I think it’s one thing that should be highlighted [to the government]. Where’s the contact tracing? What do you make of this?” she said.

Readers have told The Age they visited hairdressers, nail salons and cafes across the city that did not take the contact details of walk-in customers on Wednesday.

The Age observed patrons at one inner-northern pub sitting at neighbouring tables in a small footpath area, with the backs of their chairs touching. Under current restrictions, groups of patrons are limited to 10 people and must be seated 1.5 metres from other tables.

Customers flocked to pubs, restaurants and gelato shops on Wednesday night.

Customers flocked to pubs, restaurants and gelato shops on Wednesday night. Credit:Getty Images

Victorian businesses, including hospitality and beauty services, are required to take the contact details of any person who visits the premises for more than 15 minutes. However, most retail shops, including clothing and homeware stores, are not required to keep customer records.

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Advice on the Victorian government’s coronavirus website says spot checks will be conducted by Victoria Police who can issue on-the-spot fines of up to $1652 for individuals and up to $9913 for businesses.

“Industry bodies, Victoria Police, WorkSafe and authorised officers will work together to inform Victorians about the directions, as well as undertake enforcement and compliance activities as needed,” the website states.

The Age contacted the Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria Police, WorkSafe, Emergency Management Victoria and the state government on Wednesday night to seek clarity about which agency would be monitoring businesses and enforcing rules.

How will you enforce this? Who will enforce it?

Directions will continue to be enforced through spot checks by Victoria Police and the use of emergency powers by Authorised Officers to ensure compliance with the Public Health Directions. 

Industry bodies, Victoria Police, WorkSafe, and Authorised Officers will work together to inform Victorians about the directions, as well as undertake enforcement and compliance activities as needed. 

Community members can raise concerns about compliance with directions through the Police Assistance Line (PAL) on 131 444. Workers can raise concerns via WorkSafe on 1800 136 089. Employers can talk to their industry regulator or peak body for specific industry related support. 

A Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak Joint Intelligence Unit has been established to support comprehensive preparedness and responses to outbreaks and identify and manage outbreak risks. 

The Department of Health and Human Services and WorkSafe will co-ordinate intelligence and information on businesses that are non-compliant. 

Source: www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au

Victoria Police initially referred questions to DHHS, which directed The Age to its website that states: “WorkSafe Victoria is continuing to work closely with Victoria Police, Emergency Management Victoria and the Department of Health and Human Services on compliance and education activities across the state.”

WorkSafe referred questions to DHHS, while Emergency Management Victoria advised The Age to contact the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.

At his daily press conference on Thursday, the Premier said he was surprised to learn Victoria Police and government departments had not been able to provide clear answers about enforcement.

“Victoria Police are there to enforce the Chief Health Officer’s directions, WorkSafe have a role to play if it is in a workplace and authorised officers in partnership with Victoria Police have a role to play as well,” he said.

He said the coronavirus hotline would refer complaints to the appropriate agency. “They can either direct you to someone, or they would deal with the details you provide them and the appropriate person will be dispatched. It may not be in person. It may be a phone call. For instance, a complaint about conduct at a hairdresser’s will be treated differently to a complaint about conduct at a meatworks,” Mr Andrews said.

When asked directly whether Victoria Police would enforcing social distancing rules at cafes and pubs, the Premier said: “It is difficult to give you a blanket answer, that is what I say. Sometimes it is a matter for the police and other times it will not be.

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“We cannot literally have 100,000 people out there making sure these rules are followed and there will always be limits to how much enforcement activity you can have …

“I do not want the non-compliance of some businesses to detract from the amazing performance of the vast majority [of Victorians], but I will say this – there are fines and they are significant and they will be levied.”

Mr Andrews said he expected Victoria Police to provide an update about their enforcement plans for Melbourne’s first weekend out of stage four lockdown.

The blurred lines of responsibility in Victoria’s botched hotel quarantine program contributed to its failure, which resulted in the state’s catastrophic second wave of the coronavirus.

State controller Jason Helps told the hotel quarantine inquiry last month that a complex “multi-layered decision-making structure” in the program made it “difficult to track the origin of a decision, the role or position responsible and information, data or plans”.

Mr Andrews confirmed on Wednesday the state was creating a tailored QR check-in tool – either an app or a website – that will operate within the state’s existing digitised contact tracing software developed by US tech firm Salesforce.

The ACT Health Department had offered Victoria its existing app, but Mr Andrews said his government had opted to design a system that worked in coordination with the state’s existing software rather than use an off-the-shelf product that might add another layer of software to contact tracing.

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

Victoria Police can issue on the spot fines of up to $1652 for individuals and up to $9913 for businesses for: 

  • refusing or failing to comply with the emergency directions 
  • refusing or failing to comply with a public health risk power direction 
  • refusing or failing to comply with the Public Health Directions to provide information 

Fines of up to $20,000 for individuals and $100,000 for businesses are possible through the court system. 

Individuals who do not wear a  face mask and do not have a lawful reason can be fined $200. 

A person can be fined up to $4957 for leaving metropolitan Melbourne without a valid reason. 

Source: www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au

with Paul Sakkal and Zach Hope

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