- »The Star Sydney Under Scrutiny and Fined for Covid Case
The Star Sydney Under Scrutiny and Fined for Covid Case
Australia had been doing so well. Measures taken early seemed to have quelled the initial surge of Covid-19 cases in March, as the number of cases fell – for the most part – through April and May. Australian government and health officials deemed it safe to begin a slow reopening process from the end of May through June.
Most businesses took serious and extensive precautions to prevent any virus spread as they reopened their doors to the public. The Star Sydney was no different. But the detection of a new case – and the circumstances under which the virus may have spread – has put The Star under a bright and quite critical spotlight.
The Star Sydney Reopening
On June 1, The Star Sydney reopened its casino after more than two months of closure in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In coordination with the New South Wales government, The Star Sydney developed a “COVID-Safe Plan” to accommodate the reopening.
NSW officials approved the health and safety procedures proposed by The Star Sydney. With everything from employee hygiene details to property cleaning protocols, the casino also planned for social distancing by way of reconfiguring the gaming floor and all social spaces. Two independent health experts also endorsed the plan.
The Star Sydney then opened its gaming floor on June 1, starting with a few select food and beverage options and a maximum of 500 loyalty club members welcomed by invitation only. Other parts of the property also opened slowly, with fine-dining restaurants seating up to 50 customers and hotels permitting more movement.
Everything was going so well that The Star Entertainment Group reported the further easing of restrictions on July 1. That stage of reopening included:
- Up to 5,000 patrons permitted in the casino, determined by at least 4 square metres per person
- Full operation of all gaming machines and table games with appropriate signage to require 1.5 metres distance between individuals of different households
- General public welcomed with at least one member of each group of guests providing contact tracing information upon entry
- Extensive cleaning during four-hour shutdown each morning supplemented by intra-day cleaning
An Incident on July 4
A person that visited the casino on Saturday, July 4 between 7:30pm and 10:30pm tested positive for Covid-19.
News spread quickly, as it does in the time of a pandemic. The Star finally confirmed the news one week later – when NSW Health confirmed the positive test – and noted that its staff was performing contact tracing. They also questioned casino staff in detail.
On July 13, The Star Entertainment Group issued an update to confirm the information but also to note that the casino was and is operating per the COVID-Safe Plan.
The following day, The Star Sydney issued its own update to acknowledge “this may cause concern.” Even so, the casino and NSW Health required no one to self-isolate but to simply monitor their health and obtain a test if symptoms arise.
The Star never reported if the person that tested positive exhibited any symptoms.
More Issues at The Star Per NSW
Liquor & Gaming NSW revealed another incident at The Star Sydney, in which “groups of patrons were observed standing and mingling between groups while consuming alcohol on Saturday night.” This appeared to refer to Saturday, July 11, one week after visit by the Covid-positive patron.
Per NSW Health rules, patrons of such establishments must be seated when consuming alcohol. According to NSW Liquor & Gaming Acting Director Dimitri Argeres, “There is a risk of Covid transmission if people are mingling under the effect of alcohol.”
The incident on July 11 was, evidently, not the first observed by NSW officials, as they had made several visits to The Star. The third inspection took place on July 11, and Argeres noted that they “witnessed further breaches of the Covid-19 Safety Plan” with regard to the mingling while consuming alcohol.
The result was a $5,000 fine for breaching Covid-19 public health orders.
Argeres added, “We want to send a strong message that businesses must manage these risks to ensure individual patrons and the community are protected.” He urged customers to take responsibility for their actions as well.
Clusters in NSW and New Victoria Cases
As we reported last week, Victoria has reported the largest and most alarming surge in cases in the past several weeks. Those numbers continue to rise into this week, as Victoria overtook NSW for the number of total positive cases to date in Australia.
This week began with 105 Victorians in the hospital and officials investigating hundreds of new cases. Victoria Deputy Police Commissioner Rick Nugent cited incidents of “people refusing to leave KFC restaurants, playing Pokemon Go and poker in groups, and hiding in garages and closets.”
NSW noted the aforementioned casino patron and members of a Planet Fitness gym at the Crossroads Hotel in Casula as the primary incidents of concern there. The latter gym patrons seem to have ignited a cluster of cases that they are monitoring closely. A larger NSW map shows more than a dozen cases each in Blacktown, Cumberland, and Liverpool at this time.
The Guardian is tracking all cases with territorial breakdowns here.