Charles Cameron, who owns Matinee Coffee in Marrickville, said at least half a dozen cleaning companies contacted him after NSW Health put out a health alert after it received a brief visit from an infected person.
Mr Cameron and four of his staff did an extra hour on top of normal cleaning duties to “deep clean” the premises in line with NSW Health standards.
He also obtained a quote from a cleaning company for $2587,56. It was described as a “full-site deep clean”, and included the use of a “fogging machine”. Use of the machine was itemised at $999.
“I do think that that is a fair thing to say, that quotes of this nature are predatory, and I think there is a disconnect between the guidelines as stated by NSW Health and what the cleaning companies in question are saying they are offering,” he said.
St Agatha’s Catholic Church in Pennant Hills also received a number of calls from cleaning companies offering their services, as did the overarching Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay.
“We had cleaners on standby which were used for St Agatha’s so did not have need for any other services,” a Diocese spokeswoman said. “The prices they charged were in accordance with our expectations of what was required for a deep clean of a church facility.”
A pharmacy in Sydney’s north-west confirmed it had also been approached by cleaning companies, but declined to comment.
Lyndal Ryan, who is property services director at the United Workers Union, which represents cleaners, said many new cleaning businesses that were not well regulated were “springing up” in response to the COVID-19 crisis. She said some were “over charging and under delivering”.
“Some of them may be genuine and train their people and supply a service to their client, but we have seen a number of new companies spring up where there is a clear question of whether they are delivering the service their clients believe they are purchasing,” she said.
“I think clients need to be very careful about who they are hiring because they may say they are cleaning to the appropriate standard to leave no trace of the virus, but it may be the case that the cleaners are not trained to do that or the chemicals they are using are not sufficient to remove traces of COVID-19.”
A spokesman for the NSW Department of Customer Service said the “the current COVID-19 environment may present opportunities for some businesses to take advantage of consumers by increasing the price of essential items”.
Australian Hotels Association NSW director of liquor and gaming, John Green, said it has been building a registry of reputable providers of cleaning services and products that its members “should use if needed”.
A spokeswoman for NSW Health said the main risk of COVID-19 transmission was associated with droplets, “with a lower risk associated with surfaces”.
“Manual cleaning using detergent and disinfectant is likely to kill any virus, including COVID,” she said. “It is important to recognise that appropriate daily cleaning will remove most, if not all of the virus.
“It is in a venue’s best interest to clean thoroughly after a COVID case has visited in order to return to business as usual as quickly as possible.”
A spokeswoman for Flemington Markets said its management was not aware of any approaches from cleaning companies. “They conduct their own deep cleaning on site,” she said.
Anna Patty is a Senior Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald with a focus on higher education. She is a former Workplace Editor, Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter.
Rachel Clun is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.