Melbourne’s Lord Mayor has made an impassioned plea to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and spoken out against the Premier’s planned road map out of restrictions.
In a dramatic appeal, Lord Mayor Sally Capp claimed the city “is on its knees” in a series of social media posts after a day of campaigning against COVID-19 lockdown.
From this weekend, stage four restrictions will be lifted slightly to allow more exercise and a later curfew that will be eased by one hour from 9pm to 5am, but the expectations for businesses reopening remains unclear.
Mayor Capp initially spoke to Nine’s Today program on Monday morning pushing for a more “logical” approach to reopening Victoria, saying the current plan is full of inconsistencies.
But she followed up her TV appearance with a series of tweets claiming “our city is on its knees”, businesses are “hanging on by a thread” and the community is “anxious about the future”.
She said she anticipated raising a number of “ideas” with Mr Andrews at their next meeting including the need for a “substantial” Christmas trading period “to keep Melbourne afloat”.
On Sunday, she confirmed she had taken up the Premier’s offer “for more consultation” as the country debates the right path to end Victoria’s stage four restrictions.
The state recorded another 41 cases of the virus in the latest 24 hours and nine new deaths.
“We remain committed to the health response as a priority but we are very, very conscious that it isn’t really sustainable to us if businesses remain in lockdown and [we] expect them to survive without significant assistance,” she said.
“The health message must remain strong, but we also need to do everything we can to help businesses survive so they can open their doors when it’s safe to do so,” Ms Capp said.
Mayor Capp spent the day mainly campaigning for business and small businesses in the city, claiming the situation was “dire” and that many will not be able to sustain the ongoing lockdown.
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.
She said if the daily average number of coronavirus cases in the state drops earlier than the road map suggests, “then hospitality and retail should be able to open sooner, including with indoor patrons”.
Mayor Capp called on the Andrews government to work with the city on the following:
• Immediate additional financial assistance for businesses prevented from operating due to restrictions;
• A commitment to continuous review and a more flexible approach which allows businesses to reopen sooner in a COVID-responsible way.
On her TV appearance Ms Capp said the Premier’s plan doesn’t match up with the road map presented by the federal government or the approaches being taken by other states.
“In May the Federal Government gave a road map with three steps. We have now got a road map with four steps,” she said.
“The first step in the Federal Government road map saw hospitality and retail opening. The fourth step in our Victorian road map has some limited reopening. So we have a lot of inconsistency.”
Mayor Capp also pointed out that Queensland still has active COVID-19 cases but businesses are still open and the state is even going to host the AFL grand final.
“I think for everybody here in Victoria, we want to be able to follow the advice of health experts but it would be terrific to see some national consistency and a sense of support for businesses during lockdown,” she said.
Mayor Capp said there needs to be a sense of “fairness and logic” about what businesses are able to open up and when.
“We have got some of our businesses in the most highly regulated sectors such as hospitality and yet they are almost the last to open,” 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.”
On Sunday night, Mr Andrews was asked by The Sunday Project’s Lisa Wilkinson about the “strong and varied reactions” to his lockdown extension with a focus on business.
“Jennifer Westacott from the BCA (Business Council of Australia) thinks businesses that already had working COVID-safe plans and no transmissions should be allowed to reopen. Why can’t they?”
“Lisa, I’ll just say this: it’s not so much whether a business has had a history of infections, we simply can’t allow their customers out of their homes as if this virus didn’t actually exist,” Mr Andrews said.
“It is not about the business setting – it is important – but it doesn’t begin and end there.
“It is about how many customers, how many citizens, can we have moving freely throughout metropolitan Melbourne, throughout regional Victoria, and that point seems to have been missed.
“Ultimately we need to do this in a steady and safe way,” the Premier said. “If we could do more faster, if we could have made different announcements today, if the science, the data and
the medical experts had recommended something different, then of course I would have announced something different.
“We can’t ignore the reality we face. Just because we want this to be over, we can’t pretend that it is.
“There’s a lot of pain out there, I understand that, but there will be even more pain if we are open for just a few weeks and then shut down again for months.”