News Tougher pub rules loom after NSW COVID-19 outbreaks

Tougher pub rules loom after NSW COVID-19 outbreaks

Doug Ramsay enjoys a beer at the Rio in Summer Hill in May, but new rules could change his experience. Photo: AAP
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Pubs in New South Wales are expected to have to operate under stricter rules after more than 20 coronavirus cases were linked to a Sydney pub outbreak.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that new COVID-19 rules for pubs would be announced by the Berejiklian state government on Tuesday after being approached by the Australian Hotels Association to ensure pubs were safe.

The measures are tipped to include stricter requirements for venues to take contact details of patrons in case there is an outbreak and tougher regulations on the cleaning of pubs.

In addition the report said no more than 300 people will be allowed in a pub no matter its size.

Currently, one customer per four square metres is allowed.

The changes, which are believed to have been decided during a meeting of senior government ministers on Monday night – will not apply to clubs, restaurants, or The Star casino, the paper reported.

A patron who visited The Star casino in Sydney tested positive to COVID-19 on Monday. Photo: AAP

The expected changes come as Sydney’s COVID-19 situation deteriorated on Monday, with The Star casino among a ballooning number of NSW venues to have a virus scare, as the Casula hotel cluster grows and ensnares an NRL player.

An outbreak linked to the Crossroads Hotel at Casula in Sydney’s south-west, has grown to more than 20 cases with the addition of seven new cases up to midday on Monday.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said on Monday that 10 coronavirus cases were directly linked to the Crossroads Hotel, while 11 cases were indirectly connected.

NSW Health has asked anyone who visited the Casula pub between July 3 and 10 to immediately self-isolate for 14 days and get tested, even if they have no symptoms.

One of those is Jake Averillo, who plays for the NRL’s Canterbury Bulldogs.

The 19-year-old lives with his parents, who visited the hotel on July 5, so he is isolating as he awaits the results of a coronavirus test.

Another is federal MP Anne Stanley.

Victorian officials have also raised the alarm after two cases in that state were found to have visited NSW venues earlier this month.

NSW Health said those infected people visited:

  • Murray Downs golf club, on July 4 and 5
  • Cook @ Kurnell on July 5, for lunch
  • Highfield, Caringbah on July 5 for dinner
  • Merimbula RSL on July 6, for dinner
  • The Waterfront Café Merimbula on July 7, for breakfast.

Investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the infection at the Crossroads Hotel with further test results expected this week.

While Dr Chant said it was premature to confirm how the outbreak started, she noted it could have been introduced through a Victorian contact.

The pub had a COVID-19 safe plan and authorities were able to get contact details of some patrons but the “issue of implementation” is being investigated, Dr Chant added.

NSW Police are working with Liquor and Gaming to investigate if the Crossroads Hotel breached any guidelines.

“You can see how rapidly COVID can spread if we do not act promptly,” she told reporters in Sydney,” Dr Chant said.

On Monday Liquor and Gaming NSW said the casino had been slapped with a $5000 fine for breaching COVID-19 health orders in allowing people to stand and mingle while drinking alcohol.

Dr Chant said other venues across Sydney may have been exposed to the virus between June 27 and July 10 after visits from people linked to the outbreak.

These include Picton Hotel, Planet Fitness gym in Casula, Canterbury Leagues Club, Narellan Town Centre and Zone Bowling in Villawood. People who visited between these dates have been urged to watch for symptoms and get tested.

Meanwhile, there are reports about 30 Villawood Immigration Detention Centre guards are self-isolating after attending a party at the Crossroads Hotel.

The Refugee Action Coalition raised concerns that refugees could have been exposed to COVID-19 after some guards went to work after the party.

“Staff employed at VIDC who have recently been to the Crossroads Hotel are following advice from NSW Health and all are currently self-quarantining,” an Australian Border Force spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

-with AAP