Australia

Desperate businesses crying out for further easing of restrictions

Business owners are calling on the Government to reopen the state even earlier as Victorian COVID-19 cases plunged into single digits on Monday, the lowest daily virus count since June 12. Johnny Di Francesco, owner of the popular Brunswick East pizza restaurant 400 Gradi, said hospitality businesses were “desperate” to start chipping away at financial…

Business owners are calling on the Government to reopen the state even earlier as Victorian COVID-19 cases plunged into single digits on Monday, the lowest daily virus count since June 12.

Johnny Di Francesco, owner of the popular Brunswick East pizza restaurant 400 Gradi, said hospitality businesses were “desperate” to start chipping away at financial losses accrued over the lockdown months.

“At least now there is a bit of light that we will reopen on October 19 instead of late October, but the Government needs to think about bringing that date forward especially now we are in single digits,” he said.

“Hopefully, they also rethink their position on just outdoor seating and allow more indoor seating – this is probably what most hospitality businesses are waiting for.”

Mr Di Francesco also said eateries needed notice prior to opening up.

“Rather than announce something on October 18 we’ll need notice,” he said. “It’s really hard in hospitality, you can’t just turn a switch on and off.

“It’s a chain reaction – there’s our suppliers and growers we need to work with.”

The Australian Hotels Association Victoria also called on the Government to bring forward time frames for restrictions to be eased given the sharp reduction in COVID cases.

President David Canny said the drop in infections warranted “greater flexibility” in the Government’s hospitality industry restart guidelines.

“Regional Victoria is leading the way and country pubs should be allowed to increase their patron capacities for indoor areas,” he said.

“Ten people for two indoor spaces should be increased to 20 people per enclosed space. This will pave the way for the safe opening of metro venues.

“The debt cliff of Victoria’s 1450 pubs and hotels cannot be walked away from. It continues to mount daily, along with anxiety and mental pressures. Our 52,000 staff are at home now without the stability of their careers, dealing with their daily costs of living and an unstable future.”

The retail industry also joined calls for further easing of restrictions.

Chapel Street Precinct Association general manager Chrissie Maus said traders along the popular retail strip in Melbourne’s inner south were “wrung out”.

“Today’s press conference is another one for the Daniel Andrews disappointment pile. It failed to address the elephant in the room – how businesses can survive without a cent for moreharrowing weeks,” she said.

“There has been this nervous exhaustion in the air. So many business leaders are experiencing an increase in mental health issues and are on the verge of burnout.

“Our business community is desperate to restart our economy in the safest way possible.”

On Monday the Premier acknowledged the difficulties experienced by Victorians but was confident the state was edging closer to achieving a “COVID normal”.

“We are so close. We are so close to being able to take a really big step. A big step towards that COVID normal,” he said.

“What’s important now is that everyone keeps following the rules. Keeps doing the right thing. Keeps making that profound and critical contribution to these numbers getting low and staying low.

“I think that people can see that this is working, and all of us can see that we are so, so close to defeating this second wave. That’s not to say that on October 18 or 19 we can go back to normal, as if it was any October. It’s a COVID normal we have to find, and I’m very confident that we are making very steady and safe progress towards that goal. That gives us a summer that is so, so different to just about all of 2020, and that’s something that we’re all aiming towards.”

Any businesses that need further information about current restrictions can phone the Business Victoria hotline on 13 22 15.

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus.