Victoria’s business boss has slammed Premier Daniel Andrews for refusing to allow businesses in Melbourne to trade as normal for another eight weeks, claiming he didn’t see the decision coming.
The Premier on Sunday announced the state’s “road map” out of coronavirus lockdown, which would keep retail stores in metropolitan Melbourne closed until October 26 – and only if case numbers had been at an average of five per day for the two weeks prior.
In regional Victoria, retail can reopen, with restrictions on capacity, on September 14.
Paul Guerra, the CEO of Victoria’s Chamber of Commerce, said on Sunday the Premier’s road map was a “road to nowhere” and businesses were being “decimated” by the tough restrictions.
Mr Guerra on Monday revealed hospitality and tourism operators had his phone ringing off the hook on Sunday afternoon, but it was mum and dad operators of small businesses he was most concerned about.
“They have been told nothing is happening for you for at least another eight weeks, and that‘s really hard to swallow in an environment where they have been in lockdown in some cases for five weeks and up to eight weeks in some cases,” he said.
He said Sunday’s announcement was “tough” for many business owners, but the focus needed to be on coming out the other side of the state’s deadly second wave.
“Our job now is get as many businesses through to what will be COVID normal,” he said.
“We have to take the mantra of ‘let’s get there quick as we can and leave no one behind’.”
Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp told the breakfast show the situation for small businesses was “dire” and may not be sustainable for many businesses.
She explained while most of her constituents appeared to support the idea of following expert health advice, there was a “more logical and fair” way to do things.
“There is some inconsistency between federal and state (governments),” she said.
“It is also very difficult for many business owners to understand why those trigger points apply to them.
“Zero cases for two weeks in a row to be able to get restaurants to welcome 20 people back, it would be great for those business owners and their teams to understand why that is the case when they are in one of the most heavily regulated industries.”
Mr Guerra said in his consultations with the State Government as the road map was designed, many businesses submitted COVID-safe plans in the hope their ideas could get businesses back off the ground – but they were unsuccessful.
“We didn’t expect (the ongoing lockdown) to be announced,” he said.
“We want all Victorians back to work and to save as many businesses as we can.”