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Calls for vaccine mandate on hospitality staff to protect regions

He said vaccination rates should ideally exceed 90 per cent to provide maximum protection for rural communities and prevent health services from being overwhelmed if they have to treat COVID-positive patients.

People wait after receiving their jabs in Geelong. Regional Victoria is surging ahead with vaccination rates.

People wait after receiving their jabs in Geelong. Regional Victoria is surging ahead with vaccination rates. Credit:Luis Ascui

Australian Hotels Association Victoria chief executive Paddy O’Sullivan called for a government policy requiring hospitality staff and patrons to be vaccinated.

He confirmed the association is developing a form of legal indemnity for pubs that require immunisation for workers and customers.

“Staff would see that it is worth being vaccinated anyway for their own personal protection and being part of the community effort to get on top of this virus,” he said.

On Tuesday, Deputy Premier James Merlino indicated mandatory vaccinations may become more widespread.

“We’re working through a range of industries and sectors where vaccination of staff may be a requirement,” he said.

Deputy Premier James Merlino on Tuesday. He indicated vaccinations may be required for more industries.

Deputy Premier James Merlino on Tuesday. He indicated vaccinations may be required for more industries. Credit:Chris Hopkins

Asked about Crown Casino’s plan to vaccinate staff, Mr Merlino said: “It makes sense that if a venue requires that you are vaccinated to enter, that the staff are also vaccinated.”

Sea Change Hospitality managing director Tarren Colwell urged the government to provide clear direction to businesses on whether staff should be immunised.

The business employs about 120 workers across two venues on the Bellarine Peninsula – At The Heads in Barwon Heads and The Dunes in Ocean Grove.

“If you don’t want to be vaccinated, that’s fine, but don’t expect the same freedoms as everyone else in the short term,” he said. “We’ve got a duty of care to our fellow staff and patrons and that’s our primary concern.”

Sea Change Hospitality boss Tarren Colwell wants direction from the government on whether vaccinations should be required for staff and customers.

Sea Change Hospitality boss Tarren Colwell wants direction from the government on whether vaccinations should be required for staff and customers. Credit:Jason South

Seas Change Hospitality is waiting for density quotas to increase to at least 20 people indoors and 25 outside before reopening, even though it would still be operating at a loss. Mr Colwell said it would allow the company to employ and retain staff.

Danny Hills, of Federation University’s Health Innovation and Transformation Centre, said rural health services may be vulnerable to exposure to COVID-19 cases, and it remained to be seen whether the 80 per cent vaccination rate would provide them sufficient protection.

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“You have limited workforces in rural communities,” Professor Hills said. “If they’re impacted, it might not be the fact that hospitals are overrun, it might be the workforce that is compromised.”

Geelong Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ben Flynn said he was seeking support from the state government to trial business events in Victoria’s second-largest city that would be invitation-only for vaccinated people.

He said Geelong had venues that could trial an app or QR technology that would confirm attendees’ vaccination status.

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