National update: understanding how new COVID-19 restrictions affect strata properties

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National update: understanding how the new restrictions affect strata properties

July 2021: New restrictions introduced to fight the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19

Greater Sydney and Victoria have plunged into lockdown once again due to the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant of COVID-19.

All Greater Sydney residents must stay at home unless attending essential work, purchasing essential goods, providing care, receiving medical care or exercising within 5km of their home.

In Victoria, all residents must stay home unless exercising, shopping for essential items, providing care, receiving medical care, or attending essential work. Residents must stay within 5km of their home when exercising and shopping for essential items.

Fortunately for Queensland residents, no new restrictions are currently in force. Face masks are still mandatory when you are outside of your home, and you may not gather in groups larger than 30 people in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Here are the latest changes across the affected states, as well as some useful resources from PICA Group:

  1. New South Wales
  2. Victoria
  3. Encourage others to do the right thing

 

1. NSW: Face masks become mandatory indoors, outdoors and in common areas of strata properties, strata managers are asked to help support COVID-19 management 

Given the contagious nature of this strain, there is a targeted focus on community living settings, so those of us living in strata properties are subject to newly introduced restrictions.

Strata managers must support the government in COVID-19 management

On 30 August 2021, Dr Kerry Chant, who is the Chief Health Officer and Deputy Secretary Population and Public Health in New South Wales, wrote to strata managers to request that they support NSW Health in managing COVID-19 through the three following measures:

1. Keeping strata rolls up to date and available for the NSW Health contact tracing team to access if requested

2. Ensuring all owners and residents have access to the contact details of their strata manager or strata committee, to provide to contact tracers or NSW Health if requested. If a COVID-19 case is confirmed in a strata property, NSW Health may ask the strata managers to assist with distributing information or placing signage on common areas

3. Instructing strata committees and owners corporations to keep all shared facilities such as gyms and pool areas closed for the time being.

PICA Group family strata managers are committed to assisting owners, residents and NSW Health through these challenging times.

 

Masks must be worn on common property

As of 13 July 2021, face masks must be worn by anyone using or visiting common areas within strata properties, including but not limited to the following areas:

  • Hallways, foyers, reception areas
  • Mailbox areas
  • Stairwells
  • Shared facilities such as laundry facilities
  • Garbage disposal areas
  • Visitors parking and the garage.

This new restriction was introduced to limit the spread of COVID-19 between neighbours in community living settings, with good reason — in mid-July, residents of a Bondi Junction strata property were locked down for 14 days, after nine residents across five apartments contracted COVID-19.

Wearing face masks and maintaining your social distance when using or passing through strata property common areas are critical, to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading within your community living setting.

While wearing a face mask is mandatory on common property, there are genuine reasons why some people aren’t able to do so. We encourage you to be respectful of others and revert to the NSW Government website at all times for the latest information.

The following groups are currently exempted from the mask mandate:

  • Children who are 12 years and under
  • People with a disability
  • People with a physical or mental health illness or condition.

 

Non-essential construction, building work and maintenance can recommence in some areas

As of Saturday 31 July 2021,  construction, building work and non-urgent maintenance, including cleaning services and repair work inside homes, can recommence in lie with the following limitations:

  • In an outdoor area, no more than 5 people  can undertake work at the same time
  • In an indoor area, no more than 2 people are permitted. One household member can be present in a separate room (eg. bedroom).

In the Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield, Liverpool, Blacktown and Cumberland, Parramatta, Campbelltown and Georges River LGAs, all construction, building work and non-urgent maintenance, including cleaning services and repair work inside homes, will be paused until further notice. While common property cleaning and waste management are permitted, gardening and lawn maintenance must cease during this time unless it poses a safety risk.

Emergency works and essential reactive repairs are permitted only if urgently required for:

  • the health, safety or security of the premises or members of the household or
  • because of an emergency.

Strata residents in the aforementioned LGAs cannot leave their local area unless it is for authorised essential work.

New surveillance testing requirements may apply to your area

New surveillance testing requirements have been introduced for essential workers who live in the Fairfield local government area and those who live in the Greater Sydney region (including Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour) and travel to regional NSW for work. Building managers can ask to see proof of a COVID-19 test from employees or contracted businesses in these circumstances before they arrive at the premises.

There are several additional ways building managers can support strata property owners and residents in being COVID-safe and reducing the likelihood of COVID-19 impacting strata settings. These include:

  • Displaying posters to remind people to wear a mask in common areas and at building and car park entrances
  • Reminding staff, contractors and delivery providers to stay at home if unwell, even with mild symptoms
  • Supporting 1.5m physical distancing
  • Having hand sanitiser available at key locations/common areas such as building entrances and outside lifts
  • Cleaning frequently used indoor hard surfaces with detergent followed by disinfectant, several times per day
  • Increasing natural ventilation where possible, and increase mechanical ventilation by optimising air conditioning or other system settings (such as by maximising the intake of outside air and reducing or avoiding recirculation of air) where possible.

Should a confirmed COVID-19 case be linked to your complex, you will be notified by NSW Health and provided with instructions on what is required. Further information is available at nsw.gov.au.

 

2. VIC: Face masks must be worn both indoors and outdoors

For the duration of Victoria’s current lockdown, face masks must be worn indoors and outdoors whenever you leave your home. This means face masks must be worn in common property areas as well (unless you are eligible for an exemption during reasons outline by the Victorian Government).

While you are not allowed visitors during the lockdown, you may form a ‘social bubble’ if you live alone or are a single parent.

Owners corporations have been required to maintain and follow a COVID-safe plan for some time now. This plan must be adhered to for the duration of the lockdown.

While residential and commercial construction, renovations, installations, repairs, and maintenance can take place in owners corporation properties, the owners corporation and the contractors or construction companies involved must adhere to Victorian Government health advice at all times.

You can learn more about lockdown restrictions that apply to owners corporation properties by clicking here.

 

3. Encourage others to do the right thing

Some owners corporations have taken extra precautions and measures by supplying disposable face masks and hand sanitiser at the entry foyers.

To help remind strata residents of this new restriction, we’ve put together posters and signage that can be downloaded and displayed in common property areas. You can download them here.

While masks are mandatory in common areas, they are not a condition entry for residents. A building manager, facilities manager or fellow neighbour can never refuse a resident entry to their home.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to do the right thing and to call out or report behaviours that go against the government’s health advice. We all need to work together in fighting this current outbreak and stopping the spread.

You can learn more about COVID-19 restrictions across the country below:

To access our full range of strata resources or to stay up to date on regular updates, sign up to receive our quarterly newsletter. For a consultation to review your by-laws, our Kemps Petersons Legal team is at your service to assist. Or, one of our team members can assist you with a free assessment – it’s free and carries no obligation.


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