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Further easing of lockdown restrictions for Queensland retirement villages

Since midday on 1 June 2020, Queenslanders have been enjoying further relaxations from COVID-19 restrictions. These measures were bought forward by almost two weeks, thanks to the community’s diligence in observing social distancing requirements. Also, from 5 June 2020 onwards, the Chief Health Officer commenced approving a number of Industry COVID Safe Plans, allowing an opportunity for certain types of businesses and activities to proceed with a greater number of people than would otherwise be permitted.

While the new health directions apply to the public generally, they also apply within Queensland retirement villages. This is great news for the community spirit and vibrancy that attracts many residents to retirement villages.

Our last article on this topic (titled What does the easing of lockdown restrictions mean for my retirement village?) examined the two key public health directions as at 21 May 2020. These directions have now been replaced by:

The key changes introduced by these new directions may be summarised as follows:

  • Restrictions on the purposes for which a person may leave their principal place of residence have been removed.
  • Travel within Queensland is now mostly unrestricted, including overnight stays.
  • Generally, a maximum of 20 people (whether from the same household or not) may gather together – either in a person’s residence, at non-residential premises or in public.
  • Limits on the maximum number of persons have also been increased to 20 for:
    • cafes and restaurants (patrons must be seated – bar service and buffet self-service are still prohibited);
    • real estate auctions and open house inspections (plus up to three people conducting the auction or inspection);
    • beauty therapy, nail services and massage therapy;
    • community facilities, such as community centres, halls and recreation centres;
    • personal training, providing it is non-contact – training may now also occur indoors and outdoors. The 20 person limit includes the trainer;
    • social (i.e. not competition or fixtures) sporting-based activities, providing they are non-contact – these activities may now also occur indoors and outdoors. The 20 person limit still includes all players, coaches, spectators and other attendees;
    • swimming pools;
    • wedding ceremonies (plus the couple and celebrant); and
    • other religious ceremonies at a place of worship (other than funerals – see below) or civil ceremonies.
  • Funerals may now have a maximum of 50 mourners, plus up to three people conducting the funeral service.
  • The following activities and facilities, previously prohibited, may now operate with a maximum of 20 people at a time:
    • indoor cinemas (providing the venue is well ventilated);
    • auditoriums (providing the venue is well ventilated and there is a plan to manage entry and exit); and
    • indoor sporting centres, including gyms, health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre, spin facilities and dance studios (however, staff supervision is essential, to conduct regular cleaning and enforce social distancing). No contact activities or spectators are permitted.

Many of these activities remain subject to qualifications and conditions, including:

  • social distancing (this requirement applies to all businesses, activities and undertakings, regardless of whether they are listed in the relevant health direction as restricted or not);
  • for restricted businesses, no more than one person per four square metres;
  • communal showers and change rooms must remain closed;
  • COVID Safe checklists apply to some businesses/activities (unless they choose to comply with an approved Industry COVID Safe Plan instead – see below); and
  • the person who owns, controls or operates any restricted business, activity or undertaking must keep contact information about all guests and staff for contact tracing purposes (including name, address and mobile phone number) for 56 days. This information must be given to public health officers on request, securely stored, not used for any other purpose and deleted after 56 days. Operators must comply with Australian privacy laws and should seek professional advice if they are unsure of their obligations.

The Chief Health Officer may, on application, approve an Industry COVID Safe Plan, allowing businesses, activities and undertakings within a specific industry to operate with more than the maximum numbers referred to above, as long as they comply with the requirements of the plan.  Compliance with an approved Industry COVID Safe Plan is optional. As at the date of writing, approved Industry COVID Safe Plans include:

  • Fitness Facilities;
  • Food Services;
  • Indoor Sports Group;
  • Places of Worship; and
  • Swimming Pool and Aquatic Centre.

In response to the updated public health directions, the Department of Housing and Public Works has updated its advice for retirement village operators.

According to the Queensland Government’s 'roadmap to easing restrictions', further relaxations are due to be implemented on 10 July 2020. It remains to be seen whether this date will also be brought forward. This of course depends on the spread of the virus remaining controlled.

As always, given their vulnerable populations of residents, retirement village operators should consider their own individual circumstances when changing any restrictions within their villages, while also taking their contractual obligations into account. If in doubt, operators should obtain professional advice.

Contact us

If you wish to discuss this article, or any other retirement village issues in more detail, please contact Stuart Lowe on 07 3224 0355.

"The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication."