A COVID-19 outbreak in Australia has left the queer community reeling as more than 700 patrons of two Melbourne nightclubs have been forced into quarantine.
The Star-Observer reports that health officials in the nation have ordered partygoers of Peel Hotel and Sircuit Bar–two popular LGBTQ nightlife hotspots–into mandatory quarantine. A fellow clubgoer tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID earlier this week, and confessed to visiting both Peel and Sircuit Bar on Monday (December 10).
“Anyone who attended the Sircuit Bar from 9pm to midnight and the Peel Hotel from 11.30pm to 3am on Friday 10 December needs to quarantine and get tested. The period of quarantine begins from their time of exposure at the venues,” the Victorian Department of Health said in a statement.
“Other patrons who entered Sircuit on 10 December between 6pm and 9pm are being contacted by the Department of Health and asked to self-identify if they were present beyond 9pm. They are also strongly advised to get a standard PCR test and isolate until they get a negative result,” the DoH added.
The Department of Health further stated that vaccinated patrons are only required to quarantine for seven days, as opposed to the standard 14 days for unvaccinated visitors. Anyone who attended should receive a negative PCR test at the end of their quarantine periods before returning to public life.
The Department of Health also stated that neither business has violated any kind of statute or COVID-19 guideline. Still, for Tom McFeely, owner of the Peel hotel, the negative publicity–and mandatory quarantine–present an unneeded headache.
“I can’t understand why my staff and my customers have to go into isolation when every single one of us is double vaxxed,” McFeely told Star Observer. “We were supposed to be living with this thing. There’s nothing anyone could do apart from being double vaxxed. I thought that was the be all and end all and everyone gets to go back and we should be fine. Now there is fear. Does this mean we are going to shut down every time there is a case? They might not use the terminology shut down or closed, but if you don’t have any staff or security, you cannot open.”
McFeely added that the Peel Hotel will reopen this Friday, regardless of the number of staff in quarantine.
The news of the nightclub quarantines in Australia comes amid concerns over the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and if existing vaccines offer adequate protection against it. In the United States, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci has recommended vaccines and booster shots as optimal protection against the variant.