Fury as hospo venues bear brunt of new restrictions

Health Minister Martin Foley on Thursday announced venues will be asked to keep a density limit of 1 person per 2sq m indoors under revised rules to limit Covid transmission.It came as the state recorded 21,997 new cases and six Covid deaths.There are 631 Victorians in hospital and 100 people in intensive care, with 22 Victorians currently on a ventilator.A return to the office will also be extended, with the “strong recommendation” that Victorians continue to study and work from home until Australia Day.The new density quotient will apply indoors and will take effect from 11.59pm Thursday night.The exception to this will be indoor seated cinemas and theatres, where people are seated and masked.Mr Foley said it was estimated about one in 50 Victorians were now Covid positive. He said about one in 20 people aged in their 20s had the virus and there were signs the numbers of positive cases could be linked back to pubs and cafes.“Among yesterday’s formal figures, 40 per cent of those cases were people in their 20s and every indication is it’s overwhelmingly from hospitality related environments,” Mr Foley said.“These relatively mild restrictions are about making sure that activity can continue but continue in a less congregated and less active space.”Mr Foley said the rules were similar to those introduced in New South Wales and came as the state postponed non-urgent elective surgeries to free up hospital resources.Venues have also been urged to use seated service where possible and avoid dance floors inside.Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Paul Guerra said action was needed but venues were regularly asked to wear the economic damage. “We are concerned that the hospitality sector is again bearing the brunt of the restrictions,” he said. “While they are slight, they will still have an impact on the ability of the hospitality operator to earn some money.“We request that if a venue operator needs support, then the state government will come forward and provide the financial support to make sure that they like everybody else gets through itNED-5250-Victoria’s Covid-19 statisticsVictorian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said density quotients were a further blow to the already-struggling industry.“Consumer confidence has been smashed and we’re seeing experience-based tours and business events being affected, at a time when these sectors were only just getting back on their feet,” she said.Ms Mariani said VTIC was imploring the government to only keep these latest restrictions in place for the limited time necessary to allow the health system to manage the current impacts of this Omicron variant.Shadow Treasurer David Davis called for government support to the hospitality sector.“They’ve slammed the density rules back on like a sledgehammer but they haven’t put the support programs in place,” he said.“Business will simply not be viable without that support.”

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