Update: New DHHS Directions released for Victoria

Following the end of lockdown in metropolitan Melbourne the DHHS has published overnight the new public health directions which include the new easing of restrictions for the State due to reaching the 70% vaccination milestone.

The directions are available on the DHHS Website, and most importantly include a new set of diretions called the ‘Open Premises Directions’ (the Directions). These replace the previous ‘Restricted Activity Directions’ and the ‘Vaccinated Activity Directions’, and they consolidate the majority of rules for commercial premises (in both metropolitan and regional areas) under a single document. A copy of the Directions are attached.

Other directions such as the Mandatory Vaccination Directions, Stay Safe Directions and Workplace Directions are also important reading.

Given the volume of new material in the Directions, we provide this short update to address some of the key questions for venue operators, and we will provide a more detailed update later today. Specific questions, as always, can be directed to us in the interim if you have a pressing query.

1. Check-In requirements

All open businesses must have a ‘COVID Check-in Marshal’ on all entrances designated to ensure that all patrons of a premises are checking in using the QR Code, or alternative.

This same staff member is responsible for checking and collecting vaccination status information – where that venue is requried to check vaccination status.

2. Vaccination checks

Unless an exception to a particular business applies, all patrons aged 16 and over must demonstrate proof of being fully vaccinated or that they have a medical exemption.

Examples of businesses that do not have to do vaccination checks for patrons are:

  • Retail premises (i.e. supermarkets and bottle shops)
  • Accommodation premises
  • Hospitality premises to the extent they are providing take-away/delivery service

If a hospitality premises has seated service and takeaway – vaccination checks are only required for the patrons who are attending for seated service. Operators are entitled to have a policy in place that all patrons, even for takeaway, must be vaccinated if that is their preference and simpler for staff to manage.

3. Repairs and Maintenance

The Directions are not clear whether repair and maintenance contractors attending a hospitality premises (or any other premises that requires fully vaccinated staff/patrons) have to also be fully vaccinated.

Best practice, and recommendations from industry groups, are that all contractors and suppliers to such premises should be double vaccinated until such time as the Government confirms otherwise.

4. Retail Betting Facilities and Electronic Gaming

General retail services, including indoor TAB facilities, remain closed in metropolitan Melbourne – but are open in regional Victoria.

This means that a hotel or bar that contains indoor TAB facilities in metropolitan Melbourne cannot operate those facilities, however in regional Victoria this is permitted. The Directions do allow for outdoor betting facilities in metro Melbourne – presumably the portable kiosk type arrangement commonly used for the Spring Carnival.

Electronic Gaming is also permitted to open in regional Victoria, subject to 1.5m spacing of machines (or every second machine switched off). It is not permitted in metropolitan Melbourne.

Patrons using TAB and electronic gaming facilities in regional Victoria form part of the overall patron cap for the premises.

5. Vaccination Exemptions

The Directions set out very clear rules about what patrons must show if they are claiming to be exempt from being vaccinated – this is very different to the previous case regarding medical exemptions for mask-wearing.

The Directions provide that the only acceptable form of evidence for being unvaccinated is certification no more than 6 months old from a medical practitioner that states the person has either an acute medical illness, or a specific medical contraindication in response to the vaccination (which is further set out in the directions).

Operators are required to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to ensure that any person who is not vaccinated or validly exempt, or any person who fails to provide acceptable evidence, must not enter or remain on the premises.

There is a lot of new material to consider, and no doubt there will be lots of questions from operators about how to manage these new rules. There are also some clear irregularities as well.

We would note that these controls will likely only remain in place for the next week, given the 80% vaccination target is looming very closely and a further easing of restrictions will follow from that date.

We will continue to monitor announcements for further updates and information. A more detailed update will follow in due course.

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.