From the Newsroom

Local News

Government defends Covid safety at Townsend launch

Geoff Helisma|


On February 10, the Independent published several stories and interviews in its coverage of the NSW Government’s relaunch of its 20-Year Economic Vision for Regional NSW at Sanctus Brewing Company, Townsend, on Wednesday February 3.

An anomaly not discussed was the apparent breaching of the Covid-19 physical distancing and/or square metres rules, illustrated by the seating arrangements (as pictured) when speakers addressed invitees and media representatives.

Meanwhile, other licensed venues have been fined – for example Liquor & Gaming NSW officers reported that “inspectors who visited Watsons Bay Hotel found several instances of patrons drinking alcohol together while standing, as well as separate groups of patrons seated at tables within 1.5 metres of each other”.

The hotel was fined $5,000 and the NSW Government’s report stated that the hotel was the “15th NSW venue to be fined for COVID safety breaches in the past three weeks”.

“This latest penalty serves as a reminder to all hospitality businesses that the chances of being caught for non-compliance are high,” said Liquor & Gaming NSW Director of Compliance Dimitri Argeres.

Two days after the relaunch, on the eve of relaxing restrictions across the Greater Sydney region, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian issued a media release titled, ‘COVID 19 restrictions update’, which noted the importance of staying “Covid-safe across the state”.

‘“The community has been outstanding in containing this outbreak,” she said.

“The sacrifice and efforts of everyone is why we can ease restrictions today.

“We must remain vigilant – it is critical [that] we are getting tested with the mildest of symptoms, follow the health advice and continue to be COVID-Safe right across the State.”

Deputy Premier John Barilaro chipped in, saying that “these eased restrictions will provide some relief for venues, businesses and communities state-wide”.

“These changes will provide more certainty to plan events such as weddings and functions, and will give businesses more clarity around restrictions while still remaining COVID-Safe,” Mr Barilaro said.

Last week, the Independent asked Mr Barilaro, via an email to his ministerial office in Canberra: Could you please tell readers why Covid-19 social distancing measures were not applied at the launch of the 20-Year Economic Vision for Regional NSW, which was held at Sanctus Brewing Company on Wednesday February 3 and led by you?

Mr Barilaro’s office provided the following response: “Please attribute to a spokesperson for the Department of Regional NSW.

“The NSW Government’s 20-Year Economic Vision for Regional NSW was announced at the Sanctus Brewery, Townsend, on Wednesday 3 February 2021.

“The event utilised the venue’s corporate events COVID-19 Safety Plan, with additional measures put in place to ensure all guests and staff remained COVIDSafe.

“Under the 2 square metre rule, 375 people were permitted to be on the premises.

“Approximately 80 people attended the event, which was held in a large outdoor space.

“All guests were required to check in using a Service NSW QR code and were offered face masks on entry.

“Hand sanitiser was also readily available across the venue.”

Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said: “My take on it was that it was an outside venue and from my recollection … they were applying the two-metre rule at that time.

“I didn’t think there was any risk at the time because numbers were confined to what was appropriate to that site.”

Deputy Premier John Barilaro addresses invited guests and media representatives during the relaunch of the NSW Government’s 20-Year Economic Vision for Regional NSW. Image: Geoff Helisma