The Victorian Chamber of Commerce has criticised the state government’s roadmap out of lockdown, calling it a “roadblock” to prosperity.
This follows an announcement by Premier Daniel Andrews, who said lockdowns would remain in place until 70 percent of Victorians over 16 are fully vaccinated, which is expected to occur by Oct. 26.
At that stage, the city’s curfew will be lifted, the travel limit will increase to 25 km, and hospitality can open outdoors with a limit of 50 fully vaccinated people.
Then, once 80 percent is reached, the travel limit will be scrapped, retail, gyms and beauty services can reopen for the fully vaccinated, and hospitality can resume indoors. This is forecasted for Nov. 5.
“The path to being open again will be difficult—but essential to moving forward as a state,” Andrews told reporters on Sept. 19. “Opening up too soon—before people had the chance to get the jab—would mean our hospital system simply could not cope, and catastrophic numbers of Victorians would become seriously unwell.”
Andrews said Victoria’s roadmap was based on modelling by the Burnett Institute, and is set against COVID-19 thresholds, including hospitalisation rates and vaccination rates under the four-phase National Plan, which all states agreed to on Aug. 6.
“The COVID-19 thresholds detailed in the Roadmap will be important measures to maintain as we move through the different stages to safeguard the health system,” Andrews said.
However, Liberal MP Tim Smith said the premier has instead “deviated” from the National Plan when compared to NSW—where more freedoms will be given when the state reaches 70 percent fully vaccinated.
“At 70 percent, Gladys Berejiklian and her government have a plan to reopen NSW and have, for example, patrons back in hospitality venues,” Smith told Sky News.
Smith said that while the curfew in Sydney had ended, Melbourne’s curfew will be in force for another five weeks.
“This is soul destroying for so many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Victorians.”
Chief Executive of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Paul Guerra, echoed Smith’s concerns and questioned why the health advice was different between Australia’s two most populous states
“It is extremely tough to look over the border and see our NSW neighbours get back to relatively normal life while we continue to be locked down in a holding pattern,” Guerra said in a statement.
“Victorian businesses wanted a pathway to prosperity, but instead we got a roadmap with roadblocks.”
Franchise Council of Australia chief executive Mary Aldred told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that the Oct. 26 target will affect Victorian businesses already struggling to keep their businesses afloat.
“For many food-based businesses and pubs, anything under 50 percent capacity is not really financially viable,” Aldred said.
“Many small businesses owners are at their financial and emotional wits’ end and are deciding on whether they’re going to be able to reopen their doors beyond this week.”
While the Victorian Chamber of Commerce has called on the Andrews government to do more to incentivise vaccinations, Aldred from the Franchise Council of Australian is concerned about the policing of vaccine mandates.
“If there’s going to be big fines for noncompliance it’s absolutely critical that businesses understand how vaccine passports are going to be checked, what format they’re going to be presented in,” she said.
“Businesses need legislative support so it’s not just them who are responsible for carrying out conditions of entry—we need government support to back them up.”
Mandatory vaccinations are being rolled out among various sectors, such as in healthcare and construction, as the state records 567 cases and 44 percent fully vaccinated on Sept. 20.