Social distancing concerns raised about popular CQ markets
COMPLYING with social distancing when out in public is the new normal but a visitor to the newly reopened Emu Park Lions Markets was frustrated by what they saw.
A reader sent a picture to The Morning Bulletin which showed a number of market visitors in proximity, mirroring a similar situation in Brisbane at the Jane Powers Powerhouse Farmers Markets in April, which drew widespread condemnation.
Normally held on the third Sunday of each month at Bell Park on Hugh St, Emu Park Markets only just recommenced on Sunday following a COVID-19 pandemic driven hiatus since March.
For the past decade Emu Park Lions Markets co-ordinator Lyn Nicholls has helped organise the markets and a fortnight ago, she took over as the president of the Emu Park Lions.
In advance of the market's return, Ms Nicholls and the Lions members had worked hard to get all of their COVIDSafe plans registered with Livingstone Shire Council and Queensland Health.
With signs encouraging social distancing and 11 sanitiser stations in place, 16 Lions members were on patrol on Sunday to ensure visitors were keeping their distance.
According to Ms Nicholls the crowd had bunched up at a "bottle neck" at one of the most heavily used entrances, despite their best efforts to keep patrons dispersed.
"We were monitoring that area all morning. There was also a food stall there which we were monitoring line up and social distancing. I think that's where people were waiting for their food," Ms Nicholls said.
"We had all our safety measures in place. We had our COVID-19 plan, a checklist, and we had people on the ground monitoring crowds.
"Queuing at the food stalls was monitored by our staff and we kept an eye on them to make sure they kept their distance."
She said trying to "move people on" was not what they wanted to achieve.
"We wanted them to be aware, to keep their distance so they basically followed all the rules."
Speaking about the reopening after a four month break, Ms Nicholls said they were excited and knew they had a lot of work to do towards the COVID plan to keep everyone as safe as possible.
"We realised there was going to be a lot of people out and it was our first day back. We were covering as much as we possibly could for the day and it was in our plan to do so," she said.
"In our plan, at the maximum there would be 500 patrons at any one time and it was consistent over the morning.
"I realise at peak time, there was probably more people. I'm not sure if we went over the 500 people, it's very hard to count public people when you don't have an entrance fee.
"We'll probably come up with a solution to the problem of them bunching up at the bottle neck where people come in - that's where the picture is."
She said they were doing everything possible to create a safe environment for visitors and they were working on strategies to avoid a repeat of this situation for the next markets on August 16.
Emu Park Lions encourages visitors to its next markets on August 16 to download the COVIDSafe app, follow the social distancing rules, stay at home if they're sick, use the hand sanitiser as they enter and leave and to wear a face mask if they wished (as they aren't mandatory at this stage).
"Safety is the main thing but also (the markets) brings businesses back to life and our town really appreciates that we're back into full swing with a COVID plan," she said.