Thousands recruited for ‘corona army’ to patrol NSW pubs, venues
They are the COVID army, NSW's troop of enforcers catching out pubs, clubs and restaurants not following the tough, new rules.
The NSW government has boosted the number of inspectors who can issue fines and shut down venues breaching COVID-19 restrictions.
The bolstered workforce includes seven government agencies now tasked with carrying out uniformed and undercover inspections on businesses.
NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said: "We want businesses to stay open so it's not dry July, but it needs to be comply July."
The crackdown comes after new restrictions were imposed on pubs, casinos, clubs, bars, cafes and restaurants limiting group bookings to a maximum of 10 people and enforcing mandatory COVID-safe plans and a digital record of patrons.
Hundreds of inspectors from Liquor and Gaming, SafeWork, Fair Trading and the NSW Food Authority will enforce the measures, working in co-ordination with NSW Police, NSW Health and local council environmental inspectors.
Each agency will be assigned different workplaces to focus on and monitor across the state.
Mr Dominello said the stricter conditions were crucial to helping keep the economy alive.
"Businesses must be part of the solution if they want to stay open and look after their communities," Mr Dominello said.
"Right now if they haven't downloaded a COVID-19 safety plan and registered as a COVID Safe Business they are contravening the Public Health Orders and will face a $5000 fine and then closure."
Under Public Health Orders, inspectors and officers can enforce $5000 fines or the relevant penalty for a venue's first offence.
If caught breaking the rules a second time, businesses will be closed for one week and for their third strike, they will be shut down for up to one month.
The new COVID-19 restrictions, which came into effect on Friday, also limit the number of people at weddings and corporate events to 150 with high-risk activities including dancing and choirs banned.
Up to 100 people can attend funerals and places of worship. The one person per four square metre rule will still apply.
NSW Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said: "NSW is at a tipping point - businesses and individuals alike need to step up to ensure we don't face a second wave that could put countless lives in jeopardy."
NSW Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson said food and drink venues posed a higher risk to the community.
"Being indoors for longer periods while eating and drinking, and the potential for mingling, are all factors that make COVID more communicable," Mr Anderson said.
"Add alcohol, later trading hours and venue capacity, and the potential for transmission escalates."
On Friday the Royal Hotel at Ryde was fined $5000 for breaching coronavirus rules which included allowing patrons to stand while drinking alcohol, not being able to produce a COVID-19 Safety Plan and not having a COVID safety marshal or licensee onsite.
Liquor & Gaming NSW Director of Compliance Dimitri Argeres said the pub, in Sydney's northwest, knew what it was supposed to do but failed to enforce it and made "little attempt to manage physical distancing".
PANDEMIC BY THE NUMBERS
Venues fined so far:
NSW Liquor and Gaming has issued three penalty infringements, two written warnings and 79 verbal warnings since searching licensed premises from June 5. 1311 inspections took place at 938 venues in that time.
The Star casino, the Golden Sheaf Hotel and the Auburn Hotel were each fined $5000 for their breaches.
Meanwhile NSW Police fined the Lake Jindabyne Hotel $5000 and shut it down for 72 hours after multiple breaches on Saturday, July 11.
The Imperial Hotel in Armidale was also fined $5000 for breaches last week.
Active NSW cases
New cases overnight: 7
Active cases: 131
Total confirmed cases: 3451
Total cases: 4,169,991
Total cases: 15,650,441
NSW LGAs banned from Queensland
Batemans Bay: Soldiers Club
Campbelltown: Plus Fitness
Casula: Crossroads Hotel
Harris Park: Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral
Wetherill Park: Thai Rock
Originally published as Thousands recruited for 'corona army' to patrol NSW pubs, venues