Unvaccinated shoppers in Victoria will be able to visit retail precincts when the sector reopens on Friday due to a quirk in the government’s timeline that will see the same customers locked out just weeks later.
Victoria’s Covid testing commander Jeroen Weimar was forced to justify why it was safe for unvaccinated shoppers to visit non-essential retail when, in a matter of weeks when vaccine coverages increased, they would be banned from retail stores.
The retail sector will open to all Victorians from 6pm Friday as the state hits the 80% vaccination milestone, regardless of a person’s vaccine status.
But from 24 November, when the state is expected to reach 90% vaccination targets, “vaccinated economy” settings will come into effect, locking out all Victorians eligible to have received the vaccine from the majority of public life.
Victorians have been required to present Covid19 vaccination certificates via the Service Victoria app to enter pubs, restaurants and cafes since lockdown restrictions were lifted on 22 October. Under the initial easing of restrictions, retail has only been open for click and collect services.
Weimar said the decision came down to a “question of timing” to allow people to get vaccinated after non-essential retail was added to the list of freedoms in a short time-frame.
“We’ve given a bit more time and space for retailers to get back and moving again,” he said. “We are sending out a very clear signal that says if you’re going to be active in these retail environments post 90%, you’re going to need to get yourself vaccinated.”
Weimar said the Victorian government would still “morally support” retailers who didn’t want to accept unvaccinated people in their stores from Friday.
Yarraville Sun Bookshop owner Deb Force initially planned to have all her customers check in and display their vaccination status at the counter.
“We want people to be vaccinated, especially at the moment,” she said.
“It feels odd right now when there’s heaps of cases [to allow unvaccinated people to enter], it’s a bit scary. But all our staff are vaccinated, and we’re excited.
“It’s been a really hard, long time for all of us.”
Force said she was reluctant to introduce her own store mandates for fear of backlash from customers.
“Most people are fine, but those who aren’t would cause a lot of trouble, it’s not worth it,” she said.
“Last weekend we put up something about it on social media and people jumped on and yelled at us so we were forced to take it down.”
Preston Lulu’s Record Shop co-owner Alessandro Coco said his initial reaction was “pleased” the onus wouldn’t be on retail workers to “police and confirm” the vaccination status of shoppers.
“I’m still not sure how it’ll look when it is required, whether we’ll need to get a digital certificate or it’ll be built into a QR check-in,” he said.
“It will be different policing it, it won’t be 100% normal asking people to wait outside and place pressure on people browsing to hurry up, but I don’t begrudge any of it.
“We’ve been lucky things have gone well, we’ve grateful we’ve had support providing people tunes … put a smile on their faces. But vibes wise, it’ll certainly be different to have people come in and have a chat – that’s one of the most joyous parts of owning a record store.”