Business ‘absolutely shattered’ by lockdown extension

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Victorian business leaders say they are shattered after the state government announced that the coronavirus lockdown would continue.

The state’s main business lobby group is demanding a road map out of lockdown, similar to the plan presented by the government as the Victoria emerged from a long period of restrictions last year.

Property Council of Australia Victorian Executive Director Danni Hunter wants a plan to get workers back to their offices.Credit:Wayne Taylor

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry argues that the business, employment, health and education crises were piling up and said it wants a boosted coronavirus vaccination program as well a clear plan for reopening.

The Property Council of Australia also wants a 2020-style road map, saying it was disappointed there was no clear plan for the return of hundreds of thousands of economically vital office workers in Melbourne’s CBD and beyond to their desks.

The chamber’s chief executive, Paul Guerra, who was fiercely critical of the 2020 road map when it was published almost a year ago, said most Victorian businesses faced the reality of being unable to trade for the foreseeable future.

“Victorian businesses are absolutely shattered today,” Mr Guerra said.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra.Credit:Wayne Taylor

“We asked for a plan, a road map, ambition and hope. Instead, we got confirmation that most Victorian businesses will remain unable to trade for the foreseeable future.”

Mr Guerra said the vaccination program needed to be ramped up, calling for Victoria to get its “fair share” of the scarce Pfizer shots, arguing the state now faced multiple crises.

“The business crisis, mental health crisis, education crisis, the staff crisis – they are all layering on top of each other – it’s become a crisis lasagne, and we still don’t have any way out,” he said.

The Property Council’s Victorian executive director Danni Hunter said she welcomed the flagged increase in capacity limits for the construction industry from 25 per cent of workers on large building sites to 50 per cent, once 90 per cent of employees in the sector had received their first vaccine.

“However, we are disappointed that a phased return to office is not at all in the government’s thinking and we know this is critical to the revival of Melbourne’s CBD and Victoria’s broader economy,” Ms Hunter said.

Melbourne lord mayor Sally Capp said the latest lockdown extension was devastating news for Melbourne’s small businesses at an incredibly tough time.

“Every day I’m hearing from owners and workers who are at breaking point,” she said.

Cr Capp said business owners knew the health measures were put in place to protect lives, but that acknowledgement was needed that livelihoods and wellbeing were at risk.

“Business owners are desperate to know when they can open their doors and welcome back customers. They are craving hope and some light at the end of the tunnel.”

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