NSW Venues Divided Over Whether to Allow Access to Unvaccinated Persons

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Vaccinated welcomed

Despite the fact that as of 15 December 2021, unvaccinated New South Wales residents have been ‘permitted’ into pubs, clubs, cafes, restaurants and a range of other public settings, some businesses will continue to turn them away. 

Some businesses have already made clear they will continue to enforce the ‘no jab, no entry’ rule, citing public health concerns despite the fact those who are fully vaccinated are able to both contract and spread COVID-19.

Public poll

The Illawarra Hotel in Wollongong recently made the decision to let its patrons decide the issue, posting a poll on Facebook to determine whether it should open its doors to those who are not fully vaccinated.

The owner reported that the response was overwhelming of letting everyone in. The pub has since decided to open its doors to everyone – vaccinated or not. 

No jab, no entry remains in some places 

On the other hand, Kiama Leagues Club, Warilla Bowls and Recreation Club and Dapto Leagues Club are reported to have decided to remain off limits to the unvaccinated. 

Another venue, Corrimal RSL in the Illawarra, says it surveyed its own members, reporting that the results suggested that almost 40 percent would stop visiting the club if restrictions were relaxed. 

These are just some examples which point to the ‘the great divide’ over vaccination status across New South Wales and how discrimination against the unvaccinated is being slowly woven into the social fabric of our communities. 

To be clear, businesses are legally entitled to refuse entry to unvaccinated patrons who do not hold a valid medical exemption.

Deep social divide

Nothing in recent history has caused the level of social polarisation that we’ve experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s been masks, lockdowns, or vaccination mandates – people have been deeply divided. 

In recent days, some media commentators have remarked that it’s time to end mandated vaccinations because it’s not right for the 7-10% of Australians who remain unvaccinated to feel discriminated against. 

But the discrimination has already been creeping in for some time. It was perpetuated by Government policies which mandated vaccinations and forced vaccination status to be made public via QR check-ins and which segregated the unvaccinated for a number of weeks.  

These policies failed to consider the negative long-term social effects which are now emerging. 

The media’s continual branding of those who choose not to be vaccinated as ‘anti-vax’, rather than pro-choice has not helped the situation.  

The discrimination is also a result of much of the confusing information and misinformation that’s been touted about vaccinations which were never going to be the ‘silver bullet’ to stop transmission, but would decrease the severity of the virus if contracted.  

The hardline stance taken by the Government with regard to vaccinations was implemented primarily to protect the health system. 

People can still potentially contract the virus, even if double-vaccinated (Federal MP Barbany Joyce is a recent high-profile example) although if they do so, any resulting illness would be relatively mild, and therefore reduce the pressure on the hospital system. 

Since October, unvaccinated people in New South Wales have had their freedoms truncated at the same time as vaccinated people have been allowed to move about freely. This has only served to maintain the misunderstanding that unvaccinated people are a threat to the health of vaccinated people. The medical evidence is not clear at all in this regard. 

The state and territory-led pandemic management, particularly interstate border closures, has caused other divisions too, which have decreased our sense of nationalism, and certainly destroyed any integrity around the original early 2020 platitude from our leaders that “we’re all in this together.” 

Fear breeds discrimination 

Unfortunately, the endless daily publication of case numbers has also caused a considerable amount of fear, which only fuels the social divide even more. As Australia begins to open up it is highly likely that case numbers will soar – this has been the experience of other countries, even where vaccination rates are high. 

And sadly, the continual segregation of, and discriminaiton against, the unvaccinated’ is an very real side-effect of the pandemic. Our Governments now need to consider carefully how they’re going to repair the two-tiered society they’ve created, and facilitate a return to democracy, where all people are equal, not where ‘some are more equal’ than others.  

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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