Douglas Shire Council will write to the State Government to inform them about the negative effects the impending vaccine mandate will have on many small businesses, employers, employees, and our community as a whole.
Council will also respectfully request that they acknowledge the concerns received from the business community, give clarity to the businesses regarding the health directive, and when implementing “Public Health and Social Measures Linked to Vaccination Status”, they consider appropriate steps necessary to mitigate the risks for businesses when it comes to compliance and enforcement of this mandate.
In his Mayoral Minute, Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr acknowledged the stress for local business owners and called for the community to work together.
Read the full Mayoral Minute below
The adopted Council resolution is:
1.Douglas Shire Council notes Queensland Health’s recommendation that residents seek to be vaccinated for their protection and that of their community.
2. Douglas Shire Council is committed, and obligated, to follow any health direction made by the Queensland Government under advice from the Chief Health Officer.
3. Councillors have considered those community concerns regarding the impacts and confusion over the roll out of the vaccination mandates. That Council informs Queensland Premier Palaszczuk and the Queensland Government of the negative effects the impending vaccine mandate will have on many small businesses, employers, employees, and our community as a whole.
4. The health, safety and wellbeing of this community is Council’s highest priority, and Council will continue to work with the appropriate agencies to assist our community in navigating a way forward. Council understands people’s personal choices for vaccination
5. Douglas Shire Council writes to the State Government and respectfully request that they acknowledge the concerns received from the business community, give clarity to the businesses regarding the health directive, and when implementing “Public Health and Social Measures Linked to Vaccination Status”, they consider appropriate steps necessary to mitigate the risks for businesses when it comes to compliance and enforcement of this mandate.
It is extremely disappointing that this topic is creating a division in our community, with what is entirely a State Government health decision and directive no different to those made for limited trading, limited customers, border closures and the like. Council opinions and letters going against a state health order made for the benefit of the majority of the state does not sit well. Cr Kerr said that he thought it is also appalling to compare these health mandates which have been made to protect people with the hideous history of the apartheid, there is no comparison. Then also watering down of the absolute pain and suffering that actual discrimination in all forms has given so many is heartbreaking when compared.
Whilst Cr Kerr respected there is a personal choice, the Douglas Shire Council has always been pro-vaccination and will continue to support the State Government and the Cairns Hinterland Hospital and Health Service in encouraging residents to get vaccinated in order to protect themselves and their families.
Cr Kerr however is concerned about those within our community who claim that there is a lack of clarity and detail from the State Government regarding how the new COVID measures and restrictions will be enforced from December 17. Their website has plenty of detail on what the mandates are and what the benefits will be to those businesses that are currently trading with Covid restrictions. For those unsure http://www.covid19.qld.gov.au and click on ‘Queensland’s COVID-19 vaccine plans’.
Cr Kerr most certainly has sympathy for those businesses, particularly small businesses in the region who currently believe that these restrictions will have serious effects on their trade and staffing. Cr Kerr categorically understands and appreciates their concerns around staffing and also being required to enforce the Government restrictions that have been publicised. Cr Kerr had written directly to the Premier on the day these mandates were released regarding the enforcement issue and her office advised the following:
“Businesses are expected to take reasonable steps to enforce the restrictions. This means businesses should display the vaccination rules at the business premises and businesses may ask for evidence of vaccination from customers at the time of check-in. If a customer cannot, or refuses to, provide evidence, businesses can ask the person to leave the premises. If the person refuses to leave the premises, businesses can call the police. In these cases, police responses to calls for service will be prioritised according to the circumstances reported to police. For example, where there is a threat to life or property, these calls for service will be categorised as high priority and police will respond accordingly. The Queensland Police Service and the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation will support businesses to enforce the public health measures after Queensland reaches the 80 per cent fully vaccinated milestone. Police will work closely with local businesses and the community to educate business operators and patrons, on their obligations under the new public health measures and promote compliance, as well as high-visibility policing and compliance checking of individuals, attending restricted businesses and vulnerable settings to which the public health measures apply.”
Whilst these constraints may burden our businesses in the short term, Cr Kerr believes that the advice of the Chief Health Officer is in the long term the right way forward for the health and safety of the majority of our community. Between Cairns and Douglas as of last Monday there were over 24,000 people who have not received any form of vaccination. Not if, but when Covid arrives in this region the potential effect of this on the hospital system will be critical. If you look at what occurred in NSW around 12 -14% of those unvaccinated that came in contact with the virus needed some form of hospital care. Of those 3000 odd people if this is the case a possible 1000 could then well need ICU assistance if the same percentages follow through. We have 18 ICU beds in this region. The maths is pretty simple. The mortality rate is currently around 1% which means 240 people could potentially be in danger of losing their life.
This also doesn’t take into account those more vulnerable in our communities that have had the full vaccination. A vaccinated person will still contract Covid and can become ill. The vaccine only lets the body know what it is so it can fight it faster and hopefully before a person becomes extremely sick. Evidence also suggests that vaccinated people who might be infected with the coronavirus are less likely to spread it to others in comparison with a non-vaccinated person who it is believed would have a higher viral load.
The health directive that has been publicly advised will commence on the 17th of December and only limits those who they believe have a higher opportunity of transmission (those unvaccinated) from entering social areas that would not be considered a necessity or where close proximity and high transmission can occur. Shopping and other essential services are fully available even though the risk is considered high. Cr Kerr recommended those that are vulnerable or have low immune systems consider wearing masks in these areas and continue using hand sanitiser where possible.
Vaccinated people also have the lower potential of passing the virus on to nonvaccinated people in the close proximity venues, these mandates also have the intent of protecting those people who have voluntarily chosen not to have the vaccine from contracting the virus during the initial period when higher transmission rates are expected to occur.
The goal out of all these measures is to slow down the contact rate. The slower that people come into contact with the virus the better for our hospital systems and our businesses. We do not want the majority of our work force off sick at the same time, that would be even more detrimental to our businesses. We also should be able to be confident that our elderly and more vulnerable community members, who have done the right thing and been vaccinated are able to visit their local café and know that as a community we have their health consideration paramount.
Queensland is 76% double vaccinated; Victoria is currently 90% double vaccinated, NSW is 92% double vaccinated, Tasmania 85% double vaccinated, Northern Territory 86% double vaccinated, Western Australia 74% double vaccinated and South Australia 80% double vaccinated.
New South Wales currently has even tighter restrictions than what is proposed for Queensland with unvaccinated people unable to go to other outlets such as hairdressers, beauty salons and massage premises. There are even restrictions about visiting other people’s houses. Victoria has far more stringent rules on employment with many businesses now mandated to only have employees who are vaccinated and have similar restrictions in place as New South Wales for venues that cannot be attended by unvaccinated patrons. Tasmania is following suit on the 6th of December; South Australia will follow suit at 90% vaccinated and Northern Territory have commenced mandatory vaccination for various employment activities that involve close contact. This is not a Queensland only initiative, it is coming from multiple State Governments and Chief Health Officers around the country in order to keep all our communities safe.
Our biggest tourism markets outside the international market are New South Wales and of course Victoria. The two states that have suffered the most from this virus and the two states that well and truly know what this virus is about. Both of these markets I believe would not only expect that they are being served by a vaccinated person for their protection, more than likely demand it. Businesses that flaunt this risk losing their current biggest markets of tourism, if this region goes pandemic, we risk losing the confidence in the market from our southern tourists which could take months to rebuild.
This is a very stressful time for all concerned, there is obvious fear of the unknown whether that be the virus or the vaccine, and so much misinformation is being peddled it is often hard to tell what is fact and what is a misleading opinion. What Cr Kerr does know is that the health of all the people in this community needs to come first. Whether you are vaccinated or not vaccinated there is a clear and present concern coming at us and we need to deal with it. There is no easy answer to the ongoing issues that this virus is bringing communities all over the world. We can and we will get through it and the more we work together as a community the easier that will be. The mandates are not optional, and they are about to be with us along with Covid. Cr Kerr asked everyone to please take a step back, take a deep breath, stop and appreciate what we have here in this community. And remember that the person in front of you didn’t create this issue, they are only attempting to be part of the solution… be kind, please… Cr Kerr urged all Councillors to support this motion. This is not a time for political division nor is it a time to add more confusion to our community. This is an opportunity to show our Shire that we as a united council have the best interest of the entire region first and foremost.
Free Webinar to help business owners navigate rights and obligations
- Webinar hosted by Small Business Commissioner, Maree Adshead, and Director of Assistance, Peter Maddock
- Maree and Peter will cut through the noise to help businesses implement the necessary changes and understand the risks/consequences for non-compliance.
- Take advantage of this opportunity to talk direct with the Queensland Small Business Commissioner.
- Open and available to all for FREE: https://events.completebs.com.au/webinars