Melbourne pubs are “furious” about mixed messaging from the Victorian government on hospitality worker vaccinations, with many potentially staying closed when the city reopens, the Australian Hotels Association Victoria says.
On Tuesday, Premier Daniel Andrews said hospitality staff must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 when the city’s pubs and restaurants reopen on Friday.
This is despite public health directions stating authorised workers, including hospitality staff, must have one dose of a vaccine by October 22, with a second dose required by November 26.
The single-dose advice remains on the official coronavirus website as of Wednesday morning.
AHA Vic chief executive Paddy O’Sullivan, which represents pubs and hotels across the state, said the government had “moved the goalposts” on the sector.
“Members who were ordering stock, rostering staff on the previous timing schedule for vaccination, only to then be told yesterday that is in jeopardy – they are furious,” he told AAP.
“Staff are distraught, having been basically on and off their workplace for the last 18 months or more. It is very, very upsetting.”
He said the government had provided the industry with a schedule for fully vaccinated staff “several weeks ago”, which businesses were using to plan their reopening.
“We made our plans for reopening around those stated time frames,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
“But as recently as yesterday, after we have received confirmation from the government that the 26 November double-dose deadline would remain, only a matter of hours later that was overturned.”
The AHA is waiting to hear back on its request for a grace period to allow staff to get fully vaccinated, similar to that given to the construction industry.
“Because otherwise, come Friday, a very large number of Metropolitan pubs will not be able to open,” he said.
“To add insult to the injury, a number of regional pubs, who have been trading in a COVID-safe way for a number of weeks now, they are now forced to close on Friday because of the moving of the goalposts on vaccination.”
AAP has contacted the Department of Health seeking clarification on the double-dose vaccination deadline for hospitality workers.
Victoria recorded 1841 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and one overseas acquired case on Wednesday, as the state opens its borders to fully vaccinated people from Sydney without quarantine on arrival.
Twelve people died from the virus, taking the toll from the current outbreak to 175.
The health department confirmed the state now has 22,598 active cases.
There were 78,928 tests processed and 38,881 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered at state-run hubs on Tuesday.
Melbourne is set to be free of its sixth lockdown from Friday, but has already moved to make coming from Sydney easier.
From Wednesday there are no more red zones in NSW, with greater Sydney now an orange zone.
Fully vaccinated travellers will not have to isolate when they arrive, but those who are not will have to isolate on arrival, get tested within 72 hours, and remain in isolation until they receive a negative result.