Geraldton locals, businesses to face strict penalties for non-compliance with COVID jab rules

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Local cafe Flowvitality has opted to scrap its dine-in service.
Camera IconLocal cafe Flowvitality has opted to scrap its dine-in service. Credit: Lisa Favazzo/The Geraldton Guardian

Geraldton residents will now be required to show proof of COVID vaccination almost everywhere they go, with those who breach the rules facing jail time or fines of up to $50,000.

The new rules follow the Mid West recording its first COVID case since the start of the pandemic at the 29Metals’ Golden Grove operation near Yalgoo on Sunday.

Under the requirements, a vaccination certificate must be shown before entering all hospitality venues, nightclubs, bottle shops, gyms and fitness centres, and cinemas, theatres, live music venues, museums and galleries and other indoor entertainment venues.

Anyone visiting a residential aged-care facility or hospital must also prove they are fully vaccinated.

Businesses who failed to comply with the scheme could be fined up to $250,000.

Most Geraldton businesses have started to fine-tune the process of checking vaccination certificates, but local cafe Flowvitality has opted to scrap its dine-in service instead of “segregating” customers who were not vaccinated.

In a Facebook post which has now been shared more than 220 times, a representative said the cafe would be “staying aligned with our core values” and trading as a retail and takeaway venue only from February 1.

“If one can’t sit, we all stand,” the post stated.

“Flow has been built on the foundation of kindness and belonging. Becoming takeaway allows us to stay true to ourselves, to our values.”

Other businesses have embraced the new rules, with Skeetas Restaurant and Cafe general manager Haley Morris saying she did not anticipate any major problems with ensuring all dine-in guests were fully vaccinated.

“We always get people to check-in with the SafeWA app at reception anyway, so this is just another additional thing we have to check,” she said.

“There will be signs as they come up the ramp to remind them to have (proof of COVID vaccination) ready to go so they are not waiting, because it will be a bit time consuming.”

Ms Morris said those who were not vaccinated could still access takeaway services, which would likely be in high demand in the event of a COVID outbreak.

“We will be doing takeaway orders as usual and — depending on how and when the COVID hits us — deliveries or whatever else we need to do to keep the business operational,” she said.

Ms Morris said the key to surviving the next stage of the COVID pandemic in WA would be to maintain a flexible business model.

Everything is uncertain, but we have a good team here and we continue to be open minded about change and amending our business accordingly to keep it running,” she said.

Unlike many businesses in the hospitality industry, Skeetas is not buckling under a staffing shortage in the lead up to State borders reopening. But Ms Morris said she was keenly aware of how quickly things could change in the event of a COVID outbreak.

“We are trying to have everyone busy enough so we are not having to put off staff if people stop coming in because of the risk (of COVID transmission), because then we would have that whole rehiring issue again,” she said.

Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said staff were still working through the logistics of checking patron vaccination status at each City-operated venue.

“The City is still working through which rules apply to which venues, because some venues even have areas contained within them that need vaccination proof,” he said.

“With the Aquarena, the food area and canteen area require proof of vaccination but the swimming pool doesn’t. It is very complicated so the City is going through to try and come up with what might be a standard set of rules.”

He said the onus would be on venue visitors to do the right thing.

“The City is more or less counting on patrons of the venues to self-regulate themselves,” he said.

“Knowing that more than 94 per cent of people are double-vaccinated, the people that aren’t vaccinated will make up an extremely small proportion of the population.”

While he expected most locals would be happy to comply with COVID requirements, Mr Van Styn said there would be “zero tolerance” for those who refused to provide proof of vaccination.

A Geraldton gym manager said most of her members were fully vaccinated, with personal trainers dedicated to helping unvaccinated members keep fit outside of the gym after January 31.

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