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Retirement Aged Care | Governance & Risk Management | Retirement Villages & Aged CareGovernance & Risk Management

What does the easing of lockdown restrictions mean for my retirement village?

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer has issued new public health directions winding back some of the restrictions previously imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

In our last article on this topic (titled ‘Impacts of COVID-19 on your retirement village’), we examined the  public health directions in place as at 15 April 2020.  These directions have since been updated a number of times, with significant relaxations taking effect on 16 May 2020, in line with Queensland’s three step “roadmap to easing restrictions”.

While there remains no public health direction specifically for retirement villages, those applying to the community generally apply equally within retirement villages. 

The current directions

This article examines the current version of two key public health directions, being:

As a result of the changes, the Department of Housing and Public Works has also updated its advice to retirement village operators here.

Summary of changes

The most relevant changes to these directions (since our article of 15 April 2020) for retirement villages are outlined below.

  • The purposes for which a person may leave their principal place of residence have been expanded to include recreation, such as driving, boating, shopping and picnics. A person may travel within 150km of their residence (500km if they reside in the “Outback”, as defined) for the purpose of recreation. However, overnight stays are only allowed for people travelling for recreation in the Outback.
  • Up to five visitors may visit a person’s residence – visitors do not need to be from the same household.
  • Outside of a residence, gatherings of up to 10 people are permitted.
  • Cafes, restaurants, community centres and halls may now provide seated dining, on the following basis:
    • a maximum of 10 patrons at a time (20 in the Outback);
    • the business must comply with a COVID SAFE checklist; and
    • bar service and buffet self-service remain prohibited.
  • Real estate auctions and open house inspections are permitted on the following basis:
    • a maximum of 10 attendees, plus up to three people conducting the auction or open house; and
    • contact information, including name, address and mobile phone number, must be kept for all attendees and staff for 28 days, for contract tracing purposes. This information must be given to public health officers on request, securely stored, not used for any other purpose and deleted after 28 days (Contact Information Requirements).
  • Hairdressers and barber shops must now comply with Contact Information Requirements for all clients and staff.
  • Beauty therapy, nail services and massage are now permitted on the following basis:
    • a maximum of 10 customers at a time;
    • the business must comply with a COVID SAFE checklist; and
    • massage therapy provided by a qualified massage therapist (as defined) is permitted for the management or prevention of a disease, injury or condition.
  • Personal training can now occur in groups of up to 10 people (including the trainer), on the following basis:
    • the training occurs outdoors;
    • participants must bring their own equipment where possible (eg gym mats);
    • frequent cleaning and disinfecting of any equipment provided by the trainer; and
    • no contact activities, other than between members of the same household.
  • Social (i.e. not competition or fixtures) outdoor sporting-based activities are now permitted on the following basis:
    • a maximum of 10 people (including players, coaches, spectators and any others in attendance);
    • non-contact activities only;
    • communal showers and change rooms must be closed, but toilets may remain open;
    • minimise use of communal facilities; and
    • maintain social distancing, hand hygiene and frequent environmental cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Swimming pools may now be used on the following basis:
    • a maximum of 10 swimmers at a time;
    • communal showers and change rooms must be closed, but toilets may remain open;
    • minimise use of communal facilities; and
    • maintain social distancing, hand hygiene and frequent environmental cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Outside gyms may now be used by up to 10 people, providing no contact activities are involved (except between members of the same household).
  • BBQ areas may now be used by up to 10 people.
  • Weddings are permitted with a maximum of 10 guests, in addition to the couple and celebrant. Contact Information Requirements apply for all guests and staff.
  • Funerals are permitted with a maximum of 20 mourners (for indoor funerals) or 30 mourners (for outdoor funerals), plus up to three people conducting the funeral service. Contact Information Requirements apply for all guests and staff.
  • Private worship or small religious ceremonies may occur at a place of worship with a maximum attendance of 10 people. Contact Information Requirements apply for all guests and staff.

Many of the activities referred to above are only permitted on the basis that they involve no more than one person per four square metres and that social distancing is observed (in some cases, to the extent possible).

A note of caution

The communal lifestyle that attracts many residents to retirement villages has been necessarily curtailed in recent months. The gradual easing of Covid-19 restrictions is therefore welcome news, as our society begins to return to some semblance of normality. 

However, it is important to remember that the above directions and relaxations apply to the Queensland population as a whole, whereas seniors communities are more vulnerable to the virus.  Official advice remains that people aged 70 or over; anybody 65 or over with a chronic disease; and First Nations people over 50 with a chronic disease are strongly encouraged to exercise judgment and consider the need to go out. 

Retirement village operators should consider their own individual circumstances in deciding whether it is appropriate, for the time being, to maintain additional, enhanced or stricter controls within their villages than the public health directions require. However, in doing so, they must take into account their contractual obligations to their residents. If in doubt, operators should obtain professional advice.  

Future relaxations

According to the Queensland Government’s three step roadmap to easing restrictions, further relaxations are tentatively proposed from 12 June 2020 and 10 July 2020.  However, this is subject to the spread of the virus remaining controlled.

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.

Article written by Stuart Lowe (Partner)

"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."