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COVID NSW: $5,000 fines for walking into a cafe

·3-min read
Australian fine notice with cash ntoes, image of woman flipping 'open' sign in cafe.
A NSW Minister has warned of hefty fines for unvaccinated residents. (Images: Getty).

Unvaccinated people who enter restricted businesses could face fines of up to $5,000, under new penalties the NSW government is considering.

NSW Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope said there are “discussions taking place” around how to penalise unvaccinated people who enter restricted businesses.

Hospitality businesses, non-essential retail and hairdressers are among the businesses allowed to reopen when NSW hits 70 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated. 

However, only fully vaccinated people will be allowed to access these businesses for anything other than takeaway or click and collect. 

“Public health orders will make provision for the circumstances under which people will not be allowed to enter a business premises,” Tudehope told Sky News on Sunday.

“As I understand it, they can be as much as $5,000 for a person entering in circumstances where they’re unvaccinated."

“I think it ranges from $1,000 to $5,000 depending upon the level of breach.”

He said the penalties will be confirmed when the public health order on these restrictions is finalised.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday revealed plans for when the state hits its 80 per cent and 90 per cent milestones.

While businesses should be able to welcome unvaccinated customers in December, when the state hits its 90 per cent target, Berejiklian said that businesses will still be able to make their own decisions about who to let through their doors.

Between now and then, however, Berejiklian said the “onus will be on the individual to demonstrate that they are vaccinated”.

“The penalties we have in place still stand and most businesses have outstanding COVID safety plans which they stuck to but I also say to individuals, please know that the onus is on you to also maintain good social distancing [and a] healthy regard for the rules,” she said.

NSW residents already face $5,000 fines for breaching COVID-19 measures, including breaking self-isolation restrictions or lying to a contact tracer.

People who travel into regional NSW without a permit are also liable for $3,000 fines.

It comes as NSW counts down the days to reopening.

Restrictions are expected to begin easing from Monday 11 October, with fully vaccinated residents allowed access to restaurants, cafes, retail and hairdressers.

However, businesses will be required to monitor the vaccination status of customers and patrons.

Fully vaccinated people can show proof through the Service NSW app, NSW Digital Minister Victor Dominello revealed earlier in September.

He shared an image of the vaccine passport prototype, which shows a person’s vaccination status when they check in to a venue.

Businesses that serve unvaccinated customers in this stage of the state’s reopening could also be liable for fines of up to $55,000 under the public health orders, with Deputy Premier John Barilaro flagging hefty fines earlier this month.

“There will be significant fines for breaches,” he said. “There’s going to be a level of trust.

“But we accept that there’s always going to be a component of people that do the wrong thing and they don’t always remain compliant.

“That is why the settings are quite strict and quite conservative.”

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