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How coughing, sneezing on front-line staff could cost you $13,785 or six months' jail

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People who deliberately spit, sneeze or cough on hospitality workers will be hit with fines of up $13,785 and jail time once the new vaccine mandates come into force on December 17.

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The Government’s decision to extend the fines for abusive behaviour, essentially using COVID-19 as a weapon, comes in response to concerns from the business community about policing the new public health directive and dealing with unruly customers threatening staff.

Health Minister Yvette D’ath said on Tuesday that fines, originally introduced in April, will now be extended to retail and hospitality workers who should not be subjected to appalling behaviour while trying to do their jobs and serve the community.

“We will be extending those fines to protect all workers in all businesses that are bound by this Public Health Directive,” D’Ath said.

The fines will apply to spitting, coughing or sneezing deliberately on people and will be extended to people working in cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs, pubs, theatres, cinemas, museums, libraries and sports stadiums.

An on the spot fine of $1378.50 can be issued or if police choose to take a matter to court, the maximum fine is $13, 785 and six months in jail.

“We believe it is important to send a very clear message that these workers are here to do their job, to serve you, to make sure you enjoy your experience at these wonderful venues but we have a responsibility to protect them as well,” D’Ath said.

“When you walk up to that door and you see that sign that says ‘this is a vaccinated business’, if you choose to walk past that sign unvaccinated it is you that are breaching the rules, it is you that is committing an offence and there are consequences to it,” D’Ath said

The State’s Police Commissioner, Katarina Carroll, said any blatant disregard of the laws will result in action. Additional police patrols will be hand from December 17 and she urged any business facing abusive behaviour to call police.

And Small Business Minister Di Farmer said a package of measures to assist business cope when the new rules come into place had been developed, including short training courses on how to deescalate aggressive and abusive behaviour.

The Government also plans a “be kind campaign”.

“We are going to up our campaign to ask people to treat these people in these businesses appropriately. We are going to be running a be kind campaign. Treat everybody properly,” Farmer said.

She said if people choose to not to be vaccinated that was their decision but it was not their right to abuse others.

Plans for the new fines comes as the State recorded one new locally-acquired COVID-19 case on the Gold Coast, linked to the existing cluster, which now numbers four. The new case, a man, has been in the community infectious for several days.

It is believed the male may have travelled interstate and be the potential source of the Gold Coast cluster.

Cairns Airport has also been listed as an exposure site after an overseas arrival, who had travelled through New South Wales and was eligible to fly into Cairns and hotel quarantine had since tested positive.

A total of 87.37 per cent of Queenslanders have, on Tuesday, had their first dose of the vaccine and 78.67 per cent are double vaccinated.

It is expected that the double vaccinated figure will reach 80 per cent within the next few days, prompting the Government to bring forward the long-awaited border reopening to 1am on December 13.

But December 17 remains the day for the controversial vaccine mandates – whereby workers and patrons and visitors at a raft of settings – must be double vaccinated to enter.

This includes hotels, clubs, pubs, taverns, bars, restaurants and cafes along with indoor and outdoor entertainment venues and festivals.

The same applies to aged care facilities, hospitals, prisons and disability services and Queensland Government owned galleries, museums and libraries.

The exception is essential services, supermarkets, public transport and places of worship where unvaccinated people can go but COVID-19 density restrictions will apply .

Acting chief health officer, Dr Peter Aitken, said that once borders open, COVID-19 cases in the State will rise but he did not think mandatory mask wearing would be reintroduced.

Any decision on this would depend on the level of community transmission, he said.

People who are not fully vaccinated have just over a week before they’re denied entry into a range of Queensland venues. The rules will come into force from December 17.

* After the deadline a range of businesses will be allowed to trade at 100 per cent capacity, but all patrons must be fully vaccinated.

* The vaccine mandate will apply to hotels (including hostels, backpackers, boarding houses), pubs, clubs, taverns, bars, restaurants (including fast food) and cafes.

* Entertainment venues captured in the ban include, nightclubs, live music and karaoke bars, concerts, theatres or cinemas, casinos, sporting stadiums and theme parks.

* Unvaccinated people will also be denied entry to music festivals, sports centres, swimming pools and events such as marathons, as well as universities and TAFES and government venues including libraries.

* Venues used for private hire will have no capacity limit if people attending are fully vaccinated, but density restrictions will apply if not.

* If anyone attending a wedding is unvaccinated, it is restricted to a maximum of 20 people. Funerals will not be limited to vaccinated people, but are subject to density limits and caps on attendees.

* It will be up to individual businesses to check proof of vaccination from staff, guests and patrons.

* Proof can be provided with the Check In Qld app or a printed or electronic certificate.

* Venues subject to the ban will be provided with signage to alert customers they must show vaccine status.

* The offence of spitting, coughing or sneezing deliberately on people or threatening to do will be extended to cover workers, with on-the-spot fines of $1378.50 possible.

* The December 17 deadline also means proof of vaccination will be required to visit hospitals and aged care homes. This does not apply to residents and patients, and there will be some exceptions for medical treatment, end-of-life visits, childbirth and emergencies.

* Unvaccinated people will still be able to go to grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, newsagents and clothing stores, and take part in activities such as going to the gym.

* Capacity restrictions may still be in place at these types of businesses.

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