Around 700 patrons who attended two nightclubs in Melbourne on December 10 were directed by the Victorian Department of Health on Wednesday morning to quarantine at home. The directions came after a case positive for the Omicron variant was confirmed to have attended both venues last Friday.

The two nightclubs, Peel Hotel and Sircuit Bar, are popular with the city’s LGBTQI community. There is no suggestion that the venues or the person broke any rules or restrictions that are in place in Victoria.

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The person is understood to have visited Sircuit Bar in Fitzroy around 9 pm and the Peel Hotel in Collingwood between around 11.30 pm. According to the Department of Health there were over 410 people at the Sircuit Bar and around 320 people at the Peel Hotel.

“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 DoH said.

Those who attended the venues around theses times and are vaccinated have been asked to quarantine for seven days and those not fully vaccinated have to quarantine for 14 days. All those who have been asked to quarantine have to get a standard PCR test as soon as possible and then another PCR test a day before their quarantine is due to end.

“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 advisory said.

The DoH said that persons who live with the close contacts are not required to get a test, but should isolate and get tested if they are symptomatic.

Keep Calm And Follow Health Advice

Thorne Harbour Health urged the community to remain calm and follow the health advice.

“It’s understandable that having the omicron COVID-19 variant turn up in a queer community space is unsettling for some people, but as we come out of lockdown we need to be prepared for how we live with the virus,” Simon Ruth, CEO of THH, told Star Observer.

“That means getting vaccinated, testing if we’re potentially exposed to the virus, and getting a booster when it’s an option. Events like this also remind us how important it is to be vigilant about checking in to venues so that contact tracers can do their job and we can limit the risk of onward transmission. And if you require it, we encourage any community member to reach out to us for support,” added Ruth.

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On Wednesday, Victoria reported 1,405 new cased of COVID-19. Around 94.2 per cent of Victorians aged 12 and over have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 92.2 per cent have had two doses.

Isolation Rules Frustrating For Businesses

Tom McFeely, owner of the Peel hotel, expressed frustration at the isolation directives despite a highly vaxxed population. The Peel Hotel had opened for patrons just three weeks ago, before the staff and patrons were asked to quarantine.

“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 you don’t have any staff or security, you cannot open,” said McFeely. 

The COVID lockdowns and restrictions have had a tremendous impact on queer business and McFeely describes the past two years as the “most horrendous experience of my working life.”

Besides the financial setbacks, McFeely points to the the mental health impact on his staff. According to McFeely, “the uncertainty prevailing over the industry because of this is clearly killing Victoria.”

“I can only speak for myself, but you know, three weeks ago, I had started to feel hope and feel optimistic and started to look up to the future,” said McFeely adding that businesses were now living under fear of a shutdown if a COVID positive case attends the venue. “No business can operate under that sort of environment,” said McFeely. 

McFeely, however, is determined that the Peel hotel will be reopen for patrons this Friday. “We might not have our usual staff. There may be friends and relatives, cousins and ex-staff, but the Peel will be open,” said McFeely.

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

 

 

 

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