State of complacency

With the easing of lockdown restrictions in WA, frontline workers and experts have concerns about people becoming too complacent with COVID-19.

People are flocking to the beach since the easing of restrictions. Photo: Amelia Searson.

Checkout operator at a grocery store in Perth’s west Jess Lee says since the loosening of restrictions in WA, staff and customers have not been social distancing.

“Before the restrictions were eased, we had limits on the number of people who could be in the office at one time and we had social distancing rules for the customers.

“But now, you’ll find a bunch of people in a tiny office [because] they don’t really care about it anymore… and customers aren’t being as strict with putting distance between themselves.”

She says her work still has COVID-19 reminder signs at the front and crosses on the floor to show people where to stand, but nothing is being strictly enforced anymore.

Miss Lee says her older customers now appear complacent with social distancing and this poses risks for staff and other customers.

“Older people are the ones who use cash and are used to the system where the cashier bags their items.

“So we’re standing there, bagging all of these groceries into some disgusting bags that have never seen a washing machine in their entire lives and then the customers lick their hands before giving us the money.”

Miss Lee says she’s worried about the high number of people she has to come into contact with who are becoming slack with their personal hygiene and complacent with social distancing.

“Customers are seeing that restrictions have been loosened and they think they can do whatever they want again.”

Beachgoers say they’re worried people aren’t social distancing anymore. Video: Amelia Searson.

Murdoch University senior lecturer on political theory Ian Cook says social distancing has been hard for many people who are now expecting rewards from the government.

“The government has been giving these messages about how well people have done, so people are wanting to be allowed to join society again.

“But the government is trying to say, ‘wait for it’… [because] there could be more waves of this thing coming.”

He says the effects and risks on workers in retail and grocery stores hasn’t been taken into account.

“[The government] didn’t worry about the economy when they were supporting policies that were going to smash it, which is what the shutdown orders did.

“And they didn’t think too much about the people who were out there facing it in retail and grocery stores.

“As stores become busier with more people becoming complacent to the risks of COVID-19, the harder it will be for retail and grocery store workers, says Dr Cook.

“They can’t do their job; they can’t do the job of selling stuff and protecting customers.”

He says the members of the public who are refusing to social distance are being insensitive to frontline workers.

“We’re exposing people who are [so busy] they can’t get out there and clean properly.”

Shops are becoming more crowded as fewer people social distance. Photo: Amelia Searson.

The University of Western Australia’s Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences Jon Watson says people must remain careful, to prevent a second wave spreading in WA.  

“As we relax and people start going back to cafes and restaurants and visiting each-other… even if you have just one or two cases in the population, things can break out.”

Until a vaccine and effective treatment are established, Dr Watson says the virus isn’t going away and we need to get used to it.

According to Dr Watson, this means businesses need to start up again and have a hybrid model which helps them flourish, while keeping the community safe.

He says the government’s role is to inform people about the importance of social distancing and help them understand why the lockdown restrictions are necessary.  

“The more people in the population who do the right thing and follow the government’s advice, the more likely we are to get out of this without a second wave of the virus.”

Dr Watson says a second wave is possible if government advice isn’t followed. Photo: Amelia Searson.

Categories: COVID-19, General, Health

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