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‘A shattering blow’: Melbourne businesses to remain closed

Daniel Andrews has announced a “cautious pause” on the easing restrictions for Melbourne businesses, triggering negative backlash from the business sector frustrated that retail and hospitality opening will continue to be delayed.

Victoria’s “roadmap to recovery” promised a step towards COVID-normal once Melbourne had a rolling 14-day average of below five new cases a day, which was achieved this weekend.

However, despite expectations some rules would go from Sunday, due to an outbreak in the northern suburbs last week, the Premier has announced that there will be a “cautious pause” while thousands of tests are processed, and said he will provide an update in the coming week.

“I know it is frustrating and the labs are working as fast as they can — there are teams, hundreds of people, out there on the ground working across the northern suburbs to track down every single lead,” he said.

“All the way along I have tried to be as clear as I can be that nothing can be guaranteed.

“We have come a long way, we all have and the last thing any of us needs to do now is to ignore the fact that there are cases in the northern suburbs, there are results that are pending and we do not have those processed tests.”

“The delay announced today can only point to a lack of confidence in the efficacy of the contact tracing system and the ability of health officials to manage the COVID-19 crisis”

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Paul Guerra

The announcement has been met with outrage from the business sector who are frustrated the goalposts for reopening have moved once again.

“Today’s announcement is a shattering blow to businesses, who have again been told to wait,” said Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Paul Guerra. “It’s like Groundhog Day, and has left businesses in limbo even though average case numbers are now below the Government’s target for reopening.

“Victorians have done everything asked of them to reduce infections to an average of less than five new cases per day – meeting the Government’s very cautious target for metropolitan Melbourne – only to see the goalposts move once again.”

Industry leaders are also questioning the efficiency of the state Government’s contact tracing system, claiming this could be the reason for a delayed reopening.

“The delay announced today can only point to a lack of confidence in the efficacy of the contact tracing system and the ability of health officials to manage the COVID-19 crisis,” said Mr Guerra. 

“As soon as we can establish that the cases are linked to each other, rather than some much bigger problem, potentially across the northern suburbs, then we will be able to not only announce the next steps, we can confidently take them.”

Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group, echoed this sentiment, saying: “The decision reflects a clear lack of confidence by the Government in its own testing and tracing systems. That a city of 5 million people can continue to be locked down because of a handful of cases in a contained geographic area beggars belief.”

Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp told Sunrise on Monday morning that while she understands the Premier’s cautiousness, businesses are asking for him to trust them to reopen.

“What we are looking for now, instead of a cautious pause, is cautious optimism on our way forward,” she said.

“Those cases have come down, and our business community is really saying ‘Trust us, work with us so that we can reopen; so that we can save jobs; so we can get those cash registers open again and make the most of this Christmas Quarter.'”

“I understand what the premier is saying in terms of being cautious. We have been cautious for weeks now. The business owners are now saying to the Premier please give us cautious optimism so we can move forward.”

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Ellie Dudley

Ellie Dudley

Ellie Dudley is a journalist at Dynamic Business with a background in the startup space and current affairs reporting. She has a specific interest in foreign investment and the Australian economy.

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