On the eve of a potential rebound of COVID-19 infections in Victoria and a tightening of restrictions, the Shops, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association is calling on the federal government to stem the flow of people into shopping centres.
While most shopping centres now have COVID-19 testing stations on-site to allow the public to be tested, the fact remains that many progress directly into the centre after being tested.
This is at odds with recommendations from state and federal health authorities, which ask people with even mild symptoms to stay home and for those who have been tested to await test results before coming in contact with others.
“At Chadstone in Victoria, for example, nurses at the testing station told SDA representatives that they conducted 300 tests on Saturday and estimate that about 50 per cent of those people went into the shopping centre either immediately before or after they got tested, contrary to health advice,” the SDA said in a statement, estimating there were around 70,000 shoppers at Chadstone on the day in question.
As such, the SDA is writing to the commonwealth’s deputy chief medical officer, the Victorian premier, and shopping centre representatives seeking urgent action.
Union members have put up signs in shopping centres to ask shoppers not to enter the shops from the testing station, and vice versa, and while welcomed by health professionals it was quickly quashed by shopping centre staff.
Centre staff asked SDA members to remove the signs because they hadn’t gone through the proper processes. According to the SDA, these centres have not put up their own warning signs.
“For their own interests, let alone that of the community, shopping centres need to do a better job of monitoring foot traffic in the premises for which they are legally responsible,” the SDA said.
“[And] as the shopping centres have failed to take the necessary action so far, it is time for government to step in.”
The SDA represents over 200,000 retail workers across the country, and earlier recommended a point coronavirus safety plan to keep bricks-and-mortar safe for returning shoppers and staff.
And while many of these points have been actioned, the tide of customers returning to shopping centres may have been more than centre operators expected, causing difficulties in regulating traffic flows.
Most shopping centres have instituted hand sanitizer dispensers in key points around centres, though this can also create bottlenecks of groupings of customers.