By Michael Roberts | posted on June 25, 2020
GREAT Southern hospitality venues, theatre companies and community sporting groups have breathed a collective sigh of relief as Phase 4 of COVID-19 restrictions open up a new world of opportunities in the new normal.
On Monday, the WA Government announced a giant leap in the easing of restrictions on large gatherings, removing the 100 and 300 person limit on indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Patrons at restaurants, bars and cafes no longer have to remain seated while eating or drinking and there won’t be a requirement to take down people’s names and phone numbers.
As of Saturday, gatherings limits will only be determined by the one person per 2sqm rule.
The move comes off the back of a statewide testing blitz of frontline workers where more than 18,000 asymptomatic adults tested negative for COVID-19 across a two-week program.
White Star Hotel Business Owner David Steytler said running a pub had been a labour intensive operation during Phase 3 of restrictions.
“We have had to have a lot of extra staff on to meet those requirements,” he said.
“Phase 4 makes life a lot easier.
“Having people being able to stand up in the pubs is a big positive.”
The State Government revealed on Monday Phase 5 of its COVID-19 roadmap would be introduced on July 18, dependent on virus cases remaining low.
Phase 5 effectively gets rid of all social distancing restrictions except for WA’s hard border policy.
Interstate travellers will seemingly have to wait some time before being able enter WA without a forced 14-day quarantine, with a rise in infection rates in Victoria putting a hold on bringing the borders down.
Earl of Spencer Historic Inn Owner Neil Simmonds said he was happy for the borders to stay shut as long people made the effort to holiday locally.
“It’s very rarely we get an influx of people from New South Wales or Victoria,” he said.
“Eighty per cent of our visitors are Perth people and locals. We get a small influx of interstate people travelling through in caravans.
“As long as WA people holiday in WA we will be good.”
The removal of restrictions on indoor gatherings in Phase 5 is a big win for live music and theatre performers as one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic.
Albany Light Opera and Theatre Company Secretary Jill Larsen said the group would hold a meeting tonight to map out a way back to the stage.
“We thought this might have been it for the rest of the year,” she said.
“We’ve got a full program for the next two years so we will be eight to nine months behind. We try to do three shows a year and we haven’t even got the first one under our belts.
“With 200-odd seats and having to space everyone out that wouldn’t be viable. We really need Phase 5 before we can start selling tickets.”
While the prospect of capacity crowds at Optus Stadium has people talking up holding the AFL Grand Final in WA, locally the easing of restrictions is kicking goals for grass roots sporting groups.
Railways Football Club President Andrew Want said hosting footy match- es was now financially viable.
“It’s a huge relief, just knowing we can operate,” he said.
“Now we are able to run game day as close to normal as possible.
“We were initially not that keen (to play). We didn’t want to be in a worse position than what we were. We can’t afford to be losing money.”
Starved of live footy, Mr Want said he hoped the local community would turn up in big numbers once Great Southern Football League (GSFL) matches kick off on July 12.
“I think the GSFL made a really smart decision to push the season back two weeks and buy a bit of time,” he said.