‘People feel Abandoned’: as masks come off, thousands of Australians feel scared to go out | Stage

As of this week, Queenslanders no longer have to prove they are double vaccinated to gain entry to entertainment and cultural venues, which are back at 100% capacity a month after mask requirements eased. And in South Australia, mask restrictions are lifting on Friday.

But more than an estimated 700,000 Australians are, at any given time, considered immunocompromised – through Genetic causes, as organ recipients, undergoing treatments for cancer and some infections and simply age. Many in these groups are choosing to remain in self-imposed Lockdown as Covid-19 precautions in public settings ease.

Sydney-based musician Liz Martin, who has a lifelong auto-immune condition, understands why so many Australians are raring to go out and want things to get back to normal.

“But we are still in a pandemic, and it would be great if we could keep a lot of these simple measures in place to help ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of people that are more vulnerable,” she said.

“Many people with disability aren’t attending events. It’s really impacting a lot of people who have to stay at home, they’re still in lockdown to look after their own health. They feel abandoned. ”

States are continuing to enforce mask and vaccine requirements in high-risk settings, but the rules differ when it comes to entertainment. Photograph: Future Publishing / Getty Images

A recent survey of more than 8,000 Australians who had attended cultural events pre-Covid found that 59% felt they were now ready to go back “whenever permitted”. Among those classified as at risk of a serious health outcome from contracting Covid-19 and those with a disability, the percentages fell to 39% and 43% respectively.

The study, released last month by culture and community sector researchers Patternmakers, also found that while almost 80% of respondents were satisfied with the safety measures event organizers had in place, one in 10 expressed concern that not enough was being done.

Most states are continuing to enforce mandatory mask-wearing rules in high risk settings such as hospitals, aged care facilities, airports and public transport. But when it comes to entertainment, each state differs.

In NSW, a mask wearing and proof of vaccination is no longer required, although it is encouraged, at entertainment Venues like Cinemas, Museums and live music Venues. Masks remain compulsory at indoor music Festivals with more than 1,000 attending, as do proof of vaccination certificates, however.

In Victoria, proof of vaccination and checking in is still mandatory at entertainment Venues. The mask is not enforced, but “strongly recommended” at crowded Venues.

“I don’t think people were sticking to the mask-wearing rules like they used to anyway,” said Melbourne musician Eliza Hull, who lives with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, a group of neurological disorders.

“I noticed it as soon as it stopped being compulsory to wear masks in retail stores, that was when people stopped wearing them at live events and Hospitality Venues. I think a lot of people feel like they’ve done their part, and now they’re over it.

Australian musician Eliza Hull
‘I think a lot of people feel like they’ve done their part, and now they’re over it’… Eliza Hull. Photograph: Cathy Reynolds

“But I feel like masks are the one thing that we can do as a community to protect the now vulnerable communities. And it’s really hard for people with a disability to see people without masks on, it’s such a small price to pay to protect people with Disabilities and people whose [health] is compromised. “

The lack of uniformity in Victoria’s Covid-safe laws are a source of some irritation to the chief executive of Palace Cinemas, Benjamin Zeccola, who told the Guardian while his staff of more than 500 workers across 24 Cinemas continue to wear masks for entire shifts, workers at events such as AFL games and the Australian Grand Prix were permitted to work maskless.

“The strictest check-in requirements and vaccination enforcement requirements are in place in Victoria, under the Threat of ruinous fines, which is putting a strain on business and staff because it is expensive to monitor and monitor causing conflict with customers, who rightly believe they shouldn ‘Don’t have to check in any more… Victorians seem to have had enough, remonstrating with a powerless customer service staff, ”Zeccola said.

In Western Australia, seated entertainment Venues such as Cinemas, Theaters and Stadiums remain capped at 75% capacity. Masks remain mandatory everywhere indoors, other than in the home, and proof of vaccination is still required to gain entry to most cultural and entertainment venues.

Earlier this week, Silent Witness actor Liz Carr called for separate performances for vulnerable people who still want fellow audience members to wear masks or socially distance.

“The theater should remain accessible even to those of us who have health conditions,” she said, speaking backstage at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Sunday after winning the best supporting actress at the Olivier Awards. “If I had a five-minute speech, I would’ve talked about how I haven’t been to the theater in over two years. This is a frightening night for me. ”

Carr, who lives with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita and has used a wheelchair since childhood, said she felt safe on stage but would not feel comfortable in the audience.

“I was on stage with everybody who was testing, everybody in the cast tested every day, so I felt Safer than being a random member of the public in an audience around people I didn’t know,” she said.

Matthew Hall, the chief executive of Arts Access Australia, got Carr’s idea of ​​mask-only performances could be a valuable addition to the mix.

He said he was surprised to see a few masks being worn at recent Adelaide Fringe events he attended, and said it seemed Bizarre that holding a drink while watching a performance excused an patron from donning their mask.

Australia weekend

“It’s an option, but it shouldn’t really be needed, if people just were sensible about wearing their masks, understanding that their behavior is putting other people at risk,” he said.

Martin said maintaining streamed performances, which many arts institutions introduced during lockdowns around the world, would also help make cultural events more accessible for those Reluctant to risk Covid infection.

“To see that stopping and people wanting to return to the way things were before and forgetting about all the things we’ve learned over the last couple of years, I find that very disappointing,” she said.

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