Shopping Centre COVID-19 health and safety – time for government to step in

Media Release | 22 June 2020

Statement by Gerard Dwyer, National Secretary the SDA, the union for retail workers

Workers in shopping centres are increasingly worried that lack of effective action by shopping centre operators may be encouraging community transmission of COVID-19 just as there are disturbing signs in Victoria that we may be on the verge of a second wave of this lethal infection.

This short sighted failure invites new government restrictions, jeopardising retail workers’ health and jobs, as well as the future business of shops and the shopping centres themselves.

The SDA is writing to the Commonwealth’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, the Victorian Premier and shopping centre representatives seeking urgent action.

Quite prudently, the authorities have established COVID testing stations at shopping centres.

Retail workers are reporting to the SDA that they have seen shoppers leaving testing stations and going straight into the shopping centre; others have come directly from the shopping centre to the testing centre.

This is out of line with the recommendations of state and Commonwealth health authorities.

Advice from health authorities is that people, who have even the mildest symptoms, stay at home, and those who do present for testing return home immediately to await their test results.

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 percent of those people went into the shopping centre either immediately before or after they got tested, contrary to health advice.

The SDA estimates there were 70 thousand shoppers at Chadstone on Saturday.

SDA members have put up small signs at many Victorian shopping centres asking shoppers not to enter shops from the testing station or vice versa, an action welcomed by the health professionals in the Chadstone testing station.

However, staff at several shopping centres asked SDA members to remove the signs because they were on their property and “have not gone through the proper processes.”

So, while shopping centres discourage action by retail workers to help assist the health of the community and slow transmission of this lethal virus, they have not put up their own warning signs at testing centres.

The SDA will be engaging with shopping centre representatives and encourages them to take action to end this short -sighted practice by encouraging shoppers not to endanger their health and that of the rest of the community.

Failure to do so not only risks the immediate health of the community, but could force new government-ordered restrictions that could cost the shops and shopping centres future business, and workers their jobs.

In 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.

As the shopping centres have failed to take necessary action so far, it is time for government to step in.

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