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12 November, 2021


FOR many workers, being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is mandatory.

By Peter McCullagh

Ross Stevens from the Conservatory Wine Bar is open for business and welcomes the new directives announce by the Premier this week. PHOTO Peter McCullagh

Queensland Health employees working on a campus where patient care is provided, must be fully vaccinated or seek a medical exemption. Failure to do so has forced several hundred workers in Cairns to take forced leave, using sick or annual leave entitlements, or in some cases, leave without pay. 

Whilst it may sound harsh and Orwellian, at the core of the issue is a desire to protect staff, patients, and the wider community. 

This week the Queensland Government announced wide ranging restrictions that will apply, once Queensland reaches the 80 per cent vaccination milestone. 

Fully vaccinated Queenslanders will have freedom of entry to hospitality venues, entertainment venues and events, state government owned galleries, museums and libraries along with aged care facilities and hospitals. 

For unvaccinated Queenslanders the outlook seems bleak with restrictions limiting their access to entertainment options. 

Reaction to the announcement has been mixed from industry and political leaders in the north. 

Tourism Tropical North Queensland supported the Queensland Premier on her decisive action in providing certainty around vaccinations from December 17. 

Chief Executive Officer Mark Olsen welcomed the new rules as a game changer for the tourism industry. 

“It is exactly what is needed to get borders open and visitors returning to destinations like Tropical North Queensland that have been locked out of their major customer bases for almost two years,” he said. 

“This certainty will set Tropical North Queensland on the path to reach the 80 per cent vaccination rate by December 17 and 90 per cent in early 2022 to restart the international tourism sector. 

“Businesses will need some assistance to manage the transition with their staff and we have to accept some staff will not want to be vaccinated which could exacerbate predicted workforce shortages.” 

For hospitality owner Ross Stevens from the Conservatory Wine Bar on Lake Street the news could not be more welcome. “Just get on with it. Get vaccinated, we need to get back to normal as quickly as we can,” he said 

Federal Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter MP condemned the announcement. “Can you imagine the pressure that will be put on a junior staff member when asking an adult patron to provide their personal medical history before entering the venue. Or how they are meant to deal with an irate customer that is denied entry.” 

Queensland Member for Hill Shane Knuth said he had a great concern for businesses that were already struggling trying to get through COVID. 

“From the beginning we have not supported mandatory vaccination and businesses are doing it tough,” Mr Knuth said. 

“The tourism industry, cafes, pubs and clubs have already suffered enough and right now they are telling me they are feeling pressured to enforce and police patrons visiting their premises.”

Community leaders throughout the north have all rolled up their sleeves, determined to beat the COVID cloud and minimise the impact of the reopening of state borders on December 17. 

For two Cairns Regional Councillors, Division 10 Council Brett Olds and Division 5 Councillor Amy Eden the question regarding personal vaccination is either no, or not willing to reveal vaccination status. 

Councillor Olds has chosen not to be vaccinated. “I have discussed the issue (vaccination) with my family along with several GPs and elected not to be vaccinated. 

“This is a personal and informed choice,” he stated. 

“I will still be able to perform my duties fully as a councillor. I don’t hold my meetings in pubs or restaurants, I work from my office here (Council) or from home. 

“It the end it should always be a personal choice, and not coercion that makes a person get vaccinated.”  

The remaining Cairns Regional Councillors have all rolled up their sleeves and are double vaccinated. 

Cairns Regional Council’s CEO Mica Martin stated that whilst Cairns Regional Council currently does not require staff to be mandatorily vaccinated against COVID-19, but in line with the advice of Queensland Health, they are encouraging and supporting their employees to get vaccinated. 

“Council is also looking to implement a workplace program for employees, similar to what we use for the annual flu jab. 

“In response to the latest COVID-19 health directives announced by the Premier this week, we will be liaising with the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) and the Queensland Government to determine how these directives will affect Council employees, venues and contractors,” she said.

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