Anger spreads over recent COVID-19 breaches

As Australia slowly reopens after the COVID-19 pandemic, most people and operators are doing the right thing, and we’re seeing loads of positive news from that. 

However, there have also been breaches to the changing restrictions that have left police, health authorities and the industry itself disappointed and angry. Most recently, this has included video and images that show patrons allegedly standing and dancing in Brisbane nightclubs, and a 1000 person strong bush doof near Byron Bay. 

In Queensland, venues had restrictions rolled back further as of last Friday, however all activity must be seated and dance floors were off limits. Essentially, this meant that nightclubs could reopen, but all guests had to be seated. 

Footage allegedly from Brisbane nightclubs was shared on social media after clubs reopened, that seemed to show people dancing shoulder to shoulder, breaching operating restrictions and social distancing guidelines. 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was aware of the footage, and that Queensland police were currently investigating. 

“I thank those nightclubs that did do the right thing, and from all reports, the majority of them did. It is unfortunate that some did breach those rules so that’s a matter for police. If they have breached those COVID safe plans, there could be fines imposed.”

According to AAP, the footage in question includes Prohibition nightclub in Fortitude Valley. The club has yet to make an official comment, however AAP reported that a representative said the footage is not from the dance floor, and suggests a spontaneous burst of activity. They also said a full statement would be made today. 

With the investigation underway by police, local industry members and medical authorities remain angered at the actions caught on camera. 

Fortitude Valley Safe Night Precinct president Jason Hirt told AAP that local venue owners were “appalled and outraged” and that: “Everyone is aware the dance floor is off-limits and we’re hoping it doesn’t affect anyone else.”

There are concerns that the actions of a few could impact many, as this is likely what contributed to COVID-19 cases spiking in Victoria. Subsequently, the industry saw restriction rollbacks paused, and in some postcodes – venues forced back into lockdown, even when case spikes weren’t traced to any venues. 

That’s why there is also concern about a breach in New South Wales near Byron Bay, where more than 1000 people gathered for a ‘bush doof’ (which is essentially a dance party in the bush, if you’re not aware of that unique terminology). 

Police have said that this event, and others in the area which includes a 200 person house party in Byron Bay, showed a concerning disregard for COVID-19 restrictions in both the organisers and the attendees. Current private indoor and outdoor gathering restrictions in NSW are capped at 20 people total.

“It is very disappointing,” said Detective Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe of the Tweed/Byron Police. “You can still have a good, smaller party, but certainly don’t go to the extremes that we’ve seen in the last few days.”

Both the bush doof and the house party were shut down, and although Chief Inspector Kehoe warned that such breaches of public health orders could incur heavy fines, none were issued at either event. 

Wayne Jones, Head of the Northern NSW Local Health District, slammed the parties, which he said had the potential to put Northern NSW on a trajectory worse than Victoria.

“Events like this just create an opportunity for spread far greater than what we’re even seeing in Victoria,” he said.

“The Victorian situation was a handful of people who have travelled around. We’re talking 1,000 people congregating and disregarding physical distancing and, I’m sure, disregarding a range of safety measures. It could potentially be quite, quite damning on our numbers in the North Coast.”

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