Security guards sent to Mullumbimby, Byron Bay post offices as customers shun masks, check-ins

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Security guards are now manning the doors of Australia Post stores in Mullumbimby and Byron Bay after more than a third of customers refused to wear masks, use hand sanitiser or check-in.

The northern NSW holiday region was put into a seven-day lockdown that was due to finish on Tuesday after a COVID-19 positive man visited Byron Bay, but the stay-at-home rules have been extended as part of the latest orders for all of regional NSW.

An Australia Post spokesman said it had introduced health and safety measures across its network since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.Credit:Glenn Hunt

Despite the lockdown, the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union, which represents Australia Post staff, said more than a third of customers had not been complying with coronavirus safety rules in recent weeks, putting staff safety at risk.

“It’s completely unacceptable,” CEPU NSW secretary Shane Murphy said.

Even before the pandemic, Mullumbimby was known for many of its residents’ anti-vaccination sentiment and distrust of mainstream medicine.

Regional Australia Post management was initially resistant to bringing in security guards but the national mail service agreed after discussions with the union on Friday.

“We immediately escalated this issue with Australia Post management to ensure our members at Australia Post outlets have the safety and security they need,” Mr Murphy said. “It’s not up to staff to have to enforce the law.”

An Australia Post spokesman said it had introduced health and safety measures across its network since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, including check-ins when required by public health orders.

“We now have a security officer at our Mullumbimby and Byron Bay post offices to assist customers in understanding their public health obligations, and we ask for the community’s co-operation in ensuring the health and safety of staff and customers,” the spokesman said.

While security guards have not been employed at other stores, Australia Post’s decision underscores the challenge facing essential businesses in the retail sector, including supermarkets, as they balance staying open with health demands from staff.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott urged retailers to put security guards on doors to enforce the use of QR codes earlier this month, citing the number of supermarkets listed as coronavirus exposure locations, before backing down and emphasising the health orders.

“As we’ve said all along, as we’ve said to the supermarkets this week, the health orders are clear you’ve got an obligation to be reasonable when it comes to making sure people comply,” Mr Elliott said.

Some supermarkets have chosen to hire security guards.

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