While restrictions in regional Victoria have eased, the state Labor government’s public health orders are having a crippling impact on regional business owners and employees, particularly in tourism and hospitality.
In regional Victoria, restrictions such as the 150 person per venue density cap (with a maximum of 75 people permitted inside) and the 25 km ‘ring of steel’ which will prevent Melburnians travelling to regional Victoria this weekend are forcing many businesses to the brink.
These public health orders are draconian, disproportionate and are continuing to have a devastating impact on our visitor economy.
I have been contacted by numerous businesses owners who are at the depths of despair.
They are pleading to open and operate in a CovidSafe manner, as occurs in NSW and other states, but they are being forced to operate at half or less than half capacity whilst still carrying 100 per cent of operating costs.
This latest lockdown has caused such a loss of faith and confidence because it demonstrates that the Victorian Government does not have the capacity to control virus outbreaks locally, in any sort of proportionate manner, as occurs in other states.
It is a disgrace that only now has the state government implemented a unified QR code check in system at every venue to support contract tracing.
There has not been one case of community transmission in regional Victoria and yet the whole of the state was locked down for a week.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates that lost visitation and cancelled trips over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend will cost regional Victoria’s visitor economy around $150 million, over three days alone.
With an estimated 80 per cent of visitors to regional areas coming from Greater Melbourne, the Queen’s Birthday long weekend is traditionally as busy as Christmas or Easter for regional tourism operators.
Due to unreasonable density caps, major tourism businesses such as Sovereign Hill can’t open and a number of big events such as Heathcote on Show and the Castlemaine Jazz Festival have been cancelled. Wineries, restaurants, hotels, cafes and accommodation providers and other tourist operators have been left high and dry.
It is time that the state government worked out how to keep our state’s economy open whilst protecting lives and livelihoods.