COVID-19

Small business bosses hit out at Melbourne’s restrictions

The Andrews Government has insisted in recent days that restrictions on social settings are necessary but struggling businesses and operators have questioned the rationale in decision making.Infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon said there was an issue with consistency around current restrictions.“I think there are a number of inconsistencies and we need to have proportionate responses,” Prof Collignon said.“Whether you’re going to someone’s home with small crowds or a brothel, the risk is about the same.“Nothing we do will ever be risk free but outdoors is obviously safer than indoors. “We need people to be co-operating with restrictions for at least another year, so we need to make sure we have consistent rules that people can understand for themselves.”Small Business Australia’s Bill Lang said the feedback from business had been one of “absolute frustration”.“The rules are confusing, the rules make no sense, they are hurting our businesses and the mental health of our citizens and while we hear the term ‘following health advice’ parroted at the daily press conference, the reality is that the only advice being followed by the government is what works best politically for them,” Mr Lang said.“We have restaurants and cafes operating at 25 per cent capacity but with 100 per cent of costs, all losing money hand over fist, because you are not deemed as essential as sex workers or those in heavily unionised industries such as construction and manufacturing, who are fully open for business.”Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Paul Guerra said the state needed to find a way to live with the virus.“We continue to hear the frustration from our members in the fitness, beauty, events and entertainment industries. The larger hospitality venues cannot operate viably at 50 people inside,” Mr Guerra said.“There are winners and losers and that’s a situation we don’t want to see. Every business should have the opportunity to trade and to thrive.”Victorian Tourism Industry Council’s Felicia Mariani said: “It’s incredibly debilitating. This is the world we’ve lived in for the last 15 months and these businesses are absolutely on their knees.”A state government spokeswoman said approved settings – like outdoor auctions, religious services and dining – was “highly regulated”.When asked by the Sunday Herald Sun if he acknowledged the current restrictions appeared contradictory to everyday Victorians last week, chief health officer Brett Sutton responded: “I guess so.”“I think people look at the circumstances for their business and they try to make comparisons with other businesses,” he added.Acting Premier James Merlino said that he could understand the response of people feeling the rules were contradictory.“We’ve got some pretty tough settings for private gatherings … you look at that rule and you can pick any other restriction that we’ve got (but) it’s the cumulative nature … There are reasons why these settings are in place,” he said.Opposition leader Michael O’Brien said there was no common sense to many of Labor’s restrictions.“You can have dinner with mates inside a pub without a mask but can’t walk the dog in a park without wearing one,” he [email protected]

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