The hospitality industry will be placed under restrictions once again as the NSW government tries to keep a second wave of COVID-19 under wraps.
Tighter restrictions for pub-goers will be announced as soon as Tuesday as the industry tries to arrest a hotel-linked spread of the virus.
Under the plan – which was proposed in part by the Australian Hotels Association – group bookings would be wound back to 10 from 20, every guest would be required to sign in instead of just one per group and pub guests could be capped at 300 people no matter the size of the venue.
Even the figure of 300 will be closely eyed by government officials and could be further reduced if the outbreak worsens.
Pubs with larger gatherings of more than 250 people could also be required to have a designated “COVID-safe” officer, under the plan.
One government source said the industry was trying to move “on the front foot” amid public concern over the Crossroads Hotel cluster.
The proposal was not raised at NSW cabinet on Monday, but it was discussed at a senior leadership meeting after cabinet which Premier Gladys Berejiklian had with her leading COVID ministers.
It is understood an announcement could be made as soon as Tuesday.
The move came after NSW Police warned venues and patrons that a harsh crackdown on “disturbing behaviour” at pubs and clubs was coming as punters flouted social distancing rules.
Police Minister David Elliott issued the warning yesterday, saying a tightening of restrictions was on the cards if the hospitality industry continues to allow large crowds and if further outbreaks are identified.
The new rules have been put in place after a cluster broke out at a hotel in Casula.
“Make no mistake, the NSW Government is very concerned about the outbreaks that we’ve seen … I’ve spoken to the Australian Hotels Association and Clubs NSW and made it very clear that we cannot afford to have these sort of slips when it comes to the restrictions in place in allowing our hospitality industry to begin the road to recovery,” Mr Elliott said.
“We may have to look about what restrictions may need to be reintroduced, which would be devastating for the hospitality industry,” he said.
“We don’t want to see the hospitality industry close down again, go into go into lockdown again because it may not survive.
“Some areas of regional NSW may see the permanent closure of these venues if they can’t continue to operate.”
Police Minister David Elliott says he wants to see the hospitality industry thrive.
Mr Elliott said he was expecting the industry to put in place safer practices so further outbreaks don’t occur.
Businesses that fail to comply with the public health order can be slapped with fines up to $55,000 and a six month jail term.
Most businesses that are busted breaking the rules will be issued on the spot fines of $5,000.
Police are investigating several venues for breaches, including the Golden Sheaf in Double Bay and the Lake Jindabyne Hotel and Motel.
The Crossroads Hotel is also under investigation to determine if the venue followed the COVID safe plan.
Cars queued for hours to get into the drive-through Crossroads testing clinic.
Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Tony Cooke said the time for warnings is over, and that individuals need to take responsibility for their own actions.
“The moronic behaviour of people at dance parties needs to stop, and we will continue to seek these people out and where appropriate take action,” Assistant Commissioner Cooke said.
“Complacency is the ally of the virus, we need to take this seriously,” he said.
Mr Elliott said he was “flabbergasted” by the actions of some pub goers, and said punters shouldn’t need to be told not to crowd venues.
SEARCH FOR PATIENT ZERO
Interstate freight companies have been put on alert as the hunt for patient zero at the centre of the Crossroads Hotel coronavirus crisis cluster narrows down to a Melbourne traveller, possibly a truckie.
The Casula pub, which has now been identified as the source of 21 cases including a child, is on the Hume Highway and is a popular stop for long-haul drivers.
NSW Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant said NSW Health was investigating if patient zero could be a Victorian traveller but was waiting for further results.
Truck drivers are being tested as the possible source of the latest COVID-19 outbreak.
“A pivotal part of the investigation is whether these cases can be linked to any travellers from Melbourne because that gives us comfort that we are not missing another avenue of transmission,” Dr Chant said yesterday. “I need a few more days to do the relevant testing. This is called the Crossroads Hotel for a reason. It is on a popular route.”
She said health authorities had been in contact with other states to make sure the national freight network was on alert.
Patrons at the hotel have claimed they did not have to sign in and were allowed to get “blind drunk”.
Authorities are also concerned about two separate Victorians, who have since tested positive for COVID-19, who visited cafes, hotels, an RSL club and played golf on a road trip in NSW.
The Star Casino & Hotel has confirmed a positive COVID-19 case.
Another dozen premises across the state have been named as “potentially infectious” including The Star casino and Narellan Shopping Town.
As police confirmed that the COVID-safe practices at the Crossroads Hotel would form part of the investigation, local Dean Russell, 33, who had dinner at the hotel with two staff on Wednesday and spent an hour there on July 4, expressed his concerns.
“No one asked me for any of my contact details. I just heard on the radio that if anyone had been to the pub they should be tested,” Mr Russell said yesterday.
“I’m really worried I’ve got COVID, I feel really tired, but it might be the exhaustion of thinking I’ve messed up my company and my future for a few drinks.”
Moey Kerrigan, 22, said he had picked up his mate who was “blind drunk” at the hotel on Wednesday and said no one had asked for his details.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant says the Crossroads Hotel had a COVID Safe plan.
“Now I might have COVID but no one from the pub called me, my boss heard it on the radio and said anyone who had been to the pub should get checked out,” the disability worker said. “I’ve been self-isolating the last few days. I don’t drink myself but the pub didn’t ask me for any details or to sign in.”
But Dr Chant said the Crossroads Hotel had a COVID-safe plan and was able to supply health authorities with a list of patrons for contact tracing.
Jason Marlow of The Marlow Hotel Group, owner of The Crossroads, denied it had breached COVID-19 safety rules but said it would step up the system by having licence scanning equipment at all the points of entry.
The Star casino has been fined $5000 by Liquor and Gaming NSW relating to patrons standing and mingling together on July 4, the night a gambler visited before testing positive for COVID-19.
Bulldogs player Jake Averillo has been stood down after his parents had dinner at the Crossroads Hotel.
Dr Chant said the same man was one of the 21 cases linked to the Crossroads Hotel. Ten had visited the hotel and 11 are contacts of those patrons. Eight of the cases were identified yesterday. They include a child from southwest Sydney.
She said she could not comment on the possibility of another statewide lockdown but said it was important that all 21 cases had been linked to the same cluster so far.
“To some extent that represents a success because … we can stop that ongoing transmission,” she said.
Bulldogs player Jake Averillo has been stood down from training and forced into isolation after his parents had dinner at the hotel on July 5 and the Canterbury Leagues Club is on alert after a patron who attended on July 4 has tested positive to COVID-19.
Health authorities are urging people who attended the Picton Hotel on July 4, 9 and 10 to be tested, especially if they were in the gaming room which was visited by a man who had been at the Crossroads Hotel. The Picton Hotel is closed for cleaning.
Planet Fitness in Casula has also had a positive COVID case.
On the south coast, Merimbula RSL Club closed and staff are getting tested after one of the travelling Victorians visited for dinner on July 6. Secretary manager Michael Mutsch said they were told by NSW Health at 8.45am yesterday and had been able to pass on the names of all 65 people who were at the club that evening.
The Murray Downs Gold Club on the NSW-Victorian border was put on alert after another Victorian tested positive after playing golf there on July 4 and 5. The club said he was a regular there.
Dr Chant said other potentially infections places were Planet Fitness next door to the Crossroads Hotel which is also closed for cleaning, and Narellan Shopping Town.
St Francis Catholic College in Edmonson Park has told parents a group of teachers were at the hotel on July 3.