By Jack Marx and Andrew Lodiong
The long-awaited lifting of COVID restrictions this week has led to confusion, frustration and anger in The Hill, as businesses and residents wrestle with the first leg of a “roadmap” that looks to some like a trip to nowhere.
Many are puzzled by the changes to the rules, while others are openly hostile to the health orders, the situation breeding an ‘us and them’ mood reminiscent of past struggles in the Silver City.
On Thursday, police raided the Argent Street photo lab, Shutterbug, after a tip-off from the public that the proprietors were neither wearing masks nor insisting on proof of double-vaccination from their customers. After being fined $500 by police, the proprietors shut up shop in apparent disgust.
Across town, at The Caff in Thomas Street, even some regulars are turning on their previous café of choice, owner-operator Tricia Watson taking the brunt of tempers withered by restrictions many believe are unnecessary.
“Some people don’t want to show proof or lie about their vaccination status,” Ms Watson told Barrier Truth, “or if they have been in before, they don’t want to show it again.
“Quite a majority are rude and are saying ‘I don’t want to show you’.
“People are stressing me and my staff out because they don’t want to abide by the rules that we’ve been given.
“They don’t seem to understand that the Government has stuck us in this position.”
At the Mulga Hill Tavern, licensee Dean Trengove says punters have been pretty good overall, but that the documentation requirements have led to some lousy local forgers trying to outfox the system.
“We’ve had some idiots who’ve tried to get past the doorman with falsified medical certificates and that sort of thing,” he said.
“It’s so ridiculous … you should’ve seen the documents they tried to pass off as official.
“But, mostly, people have issues with having to wear masks. It’s hard for staff. And when it gets to 40 degrees, it’ll be an OH&S issue.”
Meanwhile, the foyer of the Barrier Truth office has been haunted by bewildered locals pleading for information. One letter handed in, signed by “Frustrated Oldies”, seemed to encapsulate the local mood:
“Everything seems to have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous and no one really knows what’s going on. Opening up was supposed to make everything easier, not harder and more confusing.”
Barrier Police District’s Inspector Yvette Smith warns the Broken Hill community against taking out their frustrations on each other.
“Under the current COVID restrictions non-essential businesses can only open to double vaccinated people,” she said.
“The onus is on the business whether it’s the owner, or the manager or an employee, to actually ask for the vaccination certificate, whether it’s a paper one or on their phone.
“They have an onus under the public health order to ask for that. If people refuse to give that, then the person has the right to refuse them entry to their store under the Inclosed Lands Protection Act, which is essentially trespass if the person doesn’t leave.
“It’s under the public health order and yes, it’s effectively the Government that’s made that rule.”
Dean Trengove hopes peace will descend on Broken Hill soon, but reminds those howling about ‘civil liberties’ that they’ve never really had as many as they seem to believe.
“We’ll see how tonight goes,” he told Barrier Truth yesterday.
“One of the good things about owning a pub is that you don’t have to let anyone in if you don’t want to.
“I could turn away a bloke if he was someone I didn’t like when we were at school – not that it’s ever come to that.
“So the rules are basically the same as they always were; use your common sense.”