Call for clarity on COVID measures
CHAMBERS of commerce from across Victoria, including Be.Bendigo, have backed a campaign urging the State Government to do better by regional business when it comes snap lockdowns like the one imposed in mid-February.
In the form of an open letter, the collation that also includes commerce and tourism groups from across the state, called on Premier Daniel Andrews to consider a range of factors when taking preventative action to curb the spread of the COVID-19.
“We… acknowledge the recent five-day state-wide ‘circuit breaker’ was imposed to prevent a third wave and the potential for further catastrophic health and economic impacts,” the letter reads.
“We now urge the Government to reflect deeply on the implementation of the ‘circuit breaker’ and prepare a comprehensive plan for any further ‘shutdowns’ that may be necessary in the months ahead of us.”
While recognising that measures taken in mid-2020 eventually ended a second wave of COVID, and the snap lockdown may have prevented a third, the coalition is calling on a more “nuanced” approach for the regions going forward.
Those calls include a return to a twin system that considers the difference between metro Melbourne and the rest of the state.
“Businesses and livelihoods suffer unnecessarily when a statewide shutdown is imposed and the impact of this is disproportional when considering metropolitan, regional and rural areas,” the letter said.
Also included in the call is “greater clarity and consistency” when it comes to future lockdowns and restrictions.
“This most recent shutdown saw different stage four restrictions apply than was previously the case in 2020. This caused confusion and added further stress to business and the community,” the letter said.
“There are many examples of the lack of clarity and consistency and we urge the Government to define in detail the various stages of restrictions as part of their planning for any further outbreaks.”
When it comes to dealing with businesses across the state, the open letter asks that State Government agencies are better placed to deal with enquires from enterprises, large and small.
“Formal channels for communication through various government agencies have not been able to provide answers to the questions business has had, both when the restrictions were announced and when they were eased,” the letter said.
“The lack of timely information, incorrect and inaccurate information erodes confidence in Government, enhances uncertainty and adds yet another burden to businesses across the state.”
In response to the State Government’s recently announced multi-million-dollar support package business effected by most recent snap lockdown, the chambers welcomed the move.
Revealed on Sunday, that package included more $200 travel vouchers for use in regional Victoria, $143 million Circuit Breaker Support Package for businesses hurt by the lockdown and targeted at those who had geared up for Valentine’s Day and events on that weekend, a $92 million Business Costs Assistance Program with grants of up to $2000 and $24.9 million for the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund.
“We know it hurt businesses to shut their doors, but the long-term benefits are clear,” said Member for Western Victoria and Minister for Small Business Jaala Pulford.
“A temporary pause has meant businesses can now get on with their rebuilding, with our full support.”
The open letter was also backed by over a dozen organisations across the state including Commerce Ballarat, the Geelong Chamber of Commerce, Business Wodonga and the Lakes Entrance Business & Tourism Association.