Shocking pictures of crowd packed into Qld market
BRISBANE residents have been caught out blatantly ignoring social distancing rules at one of the city's most famous markets, prompting condemnation from the Queensland Police Union as the markets' director has come forward to defend the decision to hold them today.
A local woman, who was out walking her dog, snapped the photograph about 8.30am, after spotting the crowd at the Jan Powers Powerhouse Farmers' Markets in New Farm.
"I was walking along and thought surely the markets aren't on," she said.
"I couldn't believe it. What is wrong with people?"
She said there weren't as many market stalls as normal but those that were open seemed to be crowded with shoppers.
"Lots of the people there were older people," she said.
"If you looked at one stall, there were probably six people milling around the one stall.
"I saw lots more heading there with their trolleys too.
"And they were not staying 1.5m from each other either. Not at all. I was really shocked."
Due to government advice, the market is classed as an "essential" service, however patrons must still abide by the 1.5m distancing rule where possible.
The popular marketplace on Thursday uploaded information to their Facebook page indicating they were going ahead with the Powerhouse markets but that shoppers must adhere to restrictions.
Vice President and Chief Executive of the Queensland Police Union, Shane Prior, deplored the actions of the community today.
He said police are continuing to be unnecessarily exposed to risk of infection while forced to attend these types of jobs during the COVID-19 outbreak.
"Dealing with COVID-19 demands a whole community response. To see pictures like this is deplorable, especially when today there are reports that community transmission in Queensland is on the rise," Mr Prior commented on Facebook while sharing a link to The Sunday Mail story.
"People need to realise the ramifications of a little trip to the markets," Mr Prior warned.
"Frontline Officers are now on scene conducting patrols, witnessing market 'Marshall's' unsuccessfully keep people separate, all while being unnecessarily exposed to risk of infection themselves. This is wrong and plainly unacceptable."
A letter sent to local councils from Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young on March 17 outlined fresh food markets would continue to go ahead for the time being.
"In a market environment people will be moving about and spending little time in static close contact," the letter said.
"This reduces the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in these environments."
"I would urge all fresh food markets to remain open and accessible to the public; the sale of this food is an important part of responding to the COVID-19 outbreak."
The letter also provided links to ways markets could help keep customers safe, including a resource to information around hand washing.
Another Facebook post from the market's page yesterday outlined that organisers of the market "are putting in all precautions in regard to Covid-19, with Social Distancing, hand wash stations, pre-package products, plus much more."
The picture attached to the post demonstrated customers standing 1.5 metres apart from each other, and offered advice that only one person per household should attend the market where possible.
Mid last month Prime Minister Scott Morrison advised that farmers' markets could go ahead, providing customers used common sense and abided by social distancing rules.
"People visiting markets should use common sense when practising social distancing and maintaining social interactions, avoiding unnecessary contact and moving 1.5 metres from other people where possible."
A Brisbane City Council spokesman said any decision to formally close the market would fall to State and Federal Governments.
"The State and Federal Governments will be responsible for any directive to close markets. Brisbane City Council continues to work closely with Queensland Health and continues to be guided by them on all matters of public health," the spokesman said in a statement to The Sunday Mail.
Astrid Gates, the director of the Jan Power's Farmers' Market and the daughter of the market's founder, Jan Power, has defended her team's decision to hold today's market.
In a statement posted to the market's Facebook page, Ms Gates said the market went ahead following advice from QLD Health and local council.
"A decision was made during the week to go ahead with the markets based on the advice provided by our local council and the QLD State Health Officer," Ms Gates' statement said.
"We have been urged to remain open."
Ms Gates said all steps were taken to ensure all staff, stallholders and customers at the markets remained safe.
"Please refer to our social distancing and hygiene directives posted on social media. Hand washing stations were set up at the markets with signage instructions on all the stalls. The stallholders were briefed by the Market Managers during the week."
Ms Gates said officers from the Queensland Police Service made recommendations to market staff when QPS arrived at the market after learning of the large numbers in attendance.
"In discussion with the Police this morning it has been recommended that we limit the numbers entering the market at any one time as with the procedures that are going to be adopted by the supermarkets - and we will be reviewing the logistics of these and any other further measures during the week.
"We are ultimately trying to support the 70 - 90 small business - the farmers who rely on us for their livelihood."
In her statement, Ms Gates referred to the letter sent by Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young, which can be read in full on the Jan Power's Farmers' Market website.
Health Minister Steven Miles has flagged stricter measures at a press conference when asked about to comment on the photographs of market shoppers' seemingly ignoring social distancing.
"I've seen those photos too and I do find them concerning," he said.
"It is incumbent not just on the operators but also the customers and the stallholders to ensure that they are appropriately practising social distancing," he said.
"We have exempted places that sell essential items and farmers markets right now fit under that criteria but if they don't implement the rules, if they don't do it responsibly, well maybe we'll have to look at that and so I would urge them to put in place appropriate procedures."
"If they're not sure what they are, well they should go to one of our bigger retailers because they know Coles and Woolies and Aldi and IGA - they are all doing a great job of providing us with essential supplies while also minimising the risk of infection and allowing people to keep their distance.
"You need to keep that 1.5m from people and I would the urge the operators to control how many people are allowed in each aisle of the market and how many people are allowed in total within the market.
"They should be able to calculate what a safe number is and control the number of customers in those spaces."
Food markets are exempt from rules restricting public gatherings to more than two people who are not from the one household under the state's emergency powers to curb the spread of the virus.
Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles have taken steps to keep shoppers apart.
Woolworths has even installed shields at checkouts to create a barrier for staff.
The Queensland Police Service, who have the power to fine individuals $1334.50 for failing to abide by social distancing and health guidelines, have been made aware of the situation at the New Farm market.
In a statement, a police spokesman said "police are aware and as this time there have been no infringements handed out.
"Of course, strictly reminding people of the importance of keeping their distance from each other in public."
Mr Prior said he and Queensland Police Union President Ian Leavers had today spoken about the challenge that lies ahead for police, as they attempt to help Queenslanders work to flatten the curve.
"We don't want to be the fun police but this is getting serious and people need to listen to the CMO's directions and policies, as they are in place for a very good reason," Mr Prior wrote.
He also praised the work of his colleagues, who continue to do their job in challenging conditions.
"Police are doing their job on behalf of the community which is starting to become quite an effort. Again in very difficult circumstances Police are standing up and doing an amazing job."