Business owners slam Dan Andrews over crippling coronavirus lockdown 

Small business owners are seeing red after Daniel Andrews ‘ignored’ them when negotiating the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Melbourne.

Victoria recorded just two new coronavirus cases on Sunday, prompting the embattled premier to ease several of Melbourne’s most hated restrictions. 

Under the new rules, groups of up to 10 people from two households can gather outdoors and tennis courts, skate parks and golf courses will reopen. 

Hairdressers will also reopen and outdoor pools will be able to host 30 swimmers, while real estate auctions will go ahead outdoors with up to 10 bidders. 

But the city’s retail, hospitality and personal care traders will likely have to wait another two weeks before opening their doors.

Under the state government’s latest plan, all metropolitan Melbourne retailers can resume trading from 11.59pm on November 1. 

The news was a devastating blow for business owners, who have been crippled by the restrictions.

The city's retail, hospitality and personal care traders will likely have to wait another two weeks before opening their doors

The city’s retail, hospitality and personal care traders will likely have to wait another two weeks before opening their doors

As Mr Andrews announced the easing of restrictions at his daily press conference on Sunday, he was confronted by a reporter who accused him of ‘ignoring’ small business owners. 

‘Businesses who thought they might be able to reopen – some say they will not be able survive out of or not be able to survive closed for another two weeks. So why are you ignoring them?’ one reporter asked.

He insisted that he wasn’t ignoring them, but was doing the best he could with the health advice given to him.  

‘To do anything different is irresponsible, completely and utterly irresponsible. I do not offer that leadership. I am doing what is right and what is safe, whether it be popular or not. That is for others to judge,’ he said.

Chrissie Maus, General Manager of the Chapel Street Precinct, told Daily Mail Australia people were furious at the premier.

‘The fact retail and hospitality is still left waiting ’til potentially November is an unjust joke,’ she said on Sunday.

‘There’s a cloud of anger from Chapel Street Precinct businesses today as this is no longer acceptable or sustainable for our businesses. I would have rather kept the 5km limit and the shops opened.’

Under the state government's latest plan, all metropolitan Melbourne retailers can resume trading from 11.59pm on November 1

Under the state government’s latest plan, all metropolitan Melbourne retailers can resume trading from 11.59pm on November 1

Mr Andrews offered a glimmer of hope that there is ‘some optimism, confidence even, that if things continue this week as they have the last five days, we may be able to bring that [date] forward’. 

But business owners with their backs up against the wall and facing certain economic ruin said confidence isn’t enough – they need assurance.  

‘Our businesses should not be forced to suffer one more day of forced closures because of poor contact tracing measures,’ Justin O’Donnell, Chairperson of the Chapel Street Precinct, said.

‘[Do] not make us wait for more harrowing days… If Dan is so confident that he has fixed the issues with Victoria’s contact tracing, then he has no excuse to keep us closed until maybe November.’ 

Ms Maus pointed to the World Health Organisation as further evidence the city should lift lockdowns.

‘The WHO stated they no longer support widespread city lockdowns. WHO understands we must now live with the virus until a vaccine is ready, Daniel Andrews does not,’ she said.

‘It seems the rest of the country is evolving in their policies but Dan continues on his draconian parade. We must learn to live with the virus and open our businesses up now! 

Hairdressers will also reopen and outdoor pools will be able to host 30 swimmers

Hairdressers will also reopen and outdoor pools will be able to host 30 swimmers

‘The mental health impact on our business owners and staff is now doing more damage than some realise.’

Victoria Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said the industry was on track to lose $23 billion in visitor spending at a cost of 165,000 jobs.

‘Businesses large and small were hoping for a lifeline of income from the upcoming (AFL) grand final and Melbourne Cup long weekends,’ she said.

‘These are peak periods that, yet again, the industry will lose.’

Melbourne’s pubs and hotels were also left bitterly disappointed at the further delays.

Australian Hotels Association’s Victorian branch president David Canny labelled the indoor patron limit ‘unrealistic and unviable’ for Melbourne publicans.

‘Pubs are accumulating debt at an alarming rate under ongoing forced COVID shutdown of the industry,’ he said.

‘I fear a number of local pubs might not survive with costs amounting to almost $10,000 per week ($250,000 over the lockdown period), and up to $25,000 per week for larger pubs.’

Modelling has previously estimated the lockdown costs Victoria’s economy about $1 billion a week. 

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has announced a number of social restrictions will be eased from midnight with businesses told they will have to wait another couple of weeks before reopening

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has announced a number of social restrictions will be eased from midnight with businesses told they will have to wait another couple of weeks before reopening

The 5 kilometre travel restriction will be extended to 25 kilometres from 11.59pm on Sunday

The 5 kilometre travel restriction will be extended to 25 kilometres from 11.59pm on Sunday

VICTORIA’S PATHWAY OUT OF LOCKDOWN 

The state government has mapped a new pathway out of lockdown for metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria that depends on stamping out COVID-19 cases in the community which have an unknown source.

METROPOLITAN MELBOURNE

STEP ONE: From 11:59pm Sunday

* Two-hour outdoor time limit scrapped

* 5km travel restriction extended to 25km

* Outdoor gatherings up from five to 10

* Face-to-face allied health appointments to resume

* Tennis courts, golf courses and skate parks will reopen

* Outdoor swimming pools open to a maximum of 30 swimmers

* Hairdressers can reopen

* Outdoor real estate auctions permitted with up to 10 people, plus staff

STEP TWO: From 11:59pm on November 1:

* Up to two people, plus dependents, allowed to visit a home per day

* All retail shops can open

* Hospitality: maximum of 20 indoor seated customers (subject to one per four sqm), maximum of 50 outdoor patrons (subject to one per two sqm)

* Beauty and personal care services open

* Wedding groups of up to 10 permitted

* Up to 20 mourners allowed at funerals

* Outdoor religious gatherings and ceremonies capped at 20 people

MAJOR RESTRICTIONS REMAIN:

* Approved face masks must be worn at all times outside home

* Work from home if possible

* All businesses must have a COVID-safe plan    

The premier said the upcoming state budget would outline the scale of the damage to businesses and how the government intends fixing it.

‘You cannot fix the economy and repair the damage that this virus has done to the economy until you deal with the virus,’ Mr Andrews said.

Despite recording just five coronavirus cases in the last three days – compared to 17 cases in NSW – Melburnians are still banned from inviting friends over to their house. 

Mr Andrews reiterated that Victorians would not be allowed to gather and celebrate the upcoming AFL Grand Final next weekend. 

‘You cannot have friends over into your home. You cannot pretend that it is over because we all desperately want it to be,’ he said.

‘I know that many people would normally spend time with family and friends to celebrate that day … it is a big part of who we are.’

‘As important as it is, in a cultural sense, in a very passionate way, for every single football fan across our state, it is not worth risking all that we have done, all that we have built, all that we can do in just a few days’ time by having gatherings that are unsafe.’    

Under Andrews’ relaxed lockdown beginning Monday, outdoor maintenance and repair workers, mobile pet groomers and photographers will also be allowed to return to work.  

The cap on outdoor gatherings will be increased to 10 people from two households

The cap on outdoor gatherings will be increased to 10 people from two households 

For months, Melburnians have only been permitted to travel within a 5km radius of their home and only for a maximum period of one or two hours.

‘I’ve announced today what is safe but what will not undermine the efforts that Victorians have put in,’ Mr Andrews said. 

‘Victorians have done an amazing job over recent weeks and months.

‘We in Melbourne and Victoria are well placed to have a COVID safe summer. Yes these lockdowns have come with significant pain and damage, but this strategy is working.’  

In August Victoria was reporting more than 700 COVID-19 cases each day. For the past five days, the state has had single-digit new diagnoses each day.

The latest rolling daily case count is 7.5 in metropolitan Melbourne for the fortnight up to Saturday. Regional Victoria’s two-week average is 0.5. 

Mr Andrews also announced a raft of changes coming into effect in regional Victoria from 11.59pm on Sunday.

Hospitality venues outside of Melbourne will increase their capacity to 70 people outside and 40 people inside.   

But Melbourne businesses must wait longer for eased restrictions, with Mr Andrews confirming that changes to retail, hospitality and 'personal care' services won't change until midnight November 1

But Melbourne businesses must wait longer for eased restrictions, with Mr Andrews confirming that changes to retail, hospitality and ‘personal care’ services won’t change until midnight November 1

Mr Andrews reiterated that Victorians would not be allowed to gather and celebrate the upcoming AFL Grand Final next weekend

Mr Andrews reiterated that Victorians would not be allowed to gather and celebrate the upcoming AFL Grand Final next weekend

Outdoor religious gatherings will also increase to 20 people, and the cap will be extended again to 50 people from midnight on November 1.

Mr Andrews revealed the ‘ring of steel’ border closures between Melbourne and regional Victoria would remain closed. 

‘Victorians in every community, in every circumstance have stayed the course,’ Mr Andrews said.

‘We have just a little longer to go to beat that second wave and then find that normal and find that process of rebuilding.’ 

Federal health minister Greg Hunt has urged the Victorian government to ease restrictions in line with NSW.

‘The epidemiological conditions for a COVID-safe reopening of hospitality, movement (and) family reunions among others, have now been firmly met,’ Mr Hunt posted on Twitter on Saturday.

‘Victoria should now be able to move to the next step in line (with) NSW.’

However Mr Andrews said Mr Hunt was not an epidemiologist and accused him of ‘playing games’, adding that he would not be rushed to lift restrictions.

Health authorities continue to investigate Victoria’s 15 cases for the fortnight up to Thursday which have no known source. 

Health authorities continue to investigate Victoria's 15 cases for the fortnight up to Thursday which have no known source (pictured, a COVID-19 pop-up clinic at Shepparton)

Health authorities continue to investigate Victoria’s 15 cases for the fortnight up to Thursday which have no known source (pictured, a COVID-19 pop-up clinic at Shepparton)

DAN ANDREWS VS CANBERRA 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been able to ease some of his state’s COVID-19 restrictions but his row with the federal Liberal MPs has deepened.

Mr Andrews has reiterated he wants no part of the travel bubble that started on Friday with New Zealand at this stage but revealed 55 Kiwis have apparently turned up in his state after landing in NSW.

‘We have been able to find 23 … we are still working to find the balance,’ he said on Sunday.

‘We have been given a list, 12 hours after they arrived. We are ringing them, one of them was in Byron Bay.’

But acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge insists Victorian chief medical officer Brett Sutton was at the meeting where authorisation was given for individuals who arrived in Sydney from New Zealand to then travel to Victoria.

‘So the Victorian government was present when it was discussed, they were made aware that this was going to occur, they raised no objections in the meetings,’ Mr Tudge told reporters.

But Mr Andrews said this was not the case.

‘Seriously, my advice to minister Tudge is, instead of stubbornly defending this, work with us and let’s make sure Victoria is not part of a bubble we never agreed to be in,’ the premier said.

Mr Andrews has been able to ease some of his state’s stiff COVID-19 restrictions after reporting just two new cases on Sunday after one on Saturday.

Among the state’s relaxation of restrictions, from Monday Melburnians will be allowed to travel 25km from home, while there will be no limits on time spent away from their residence.

But the state capitals businesses must wait longer for eased restrictions, with Mr Andrews confirming changes to retail, hospitality and ‘personal care’ services won’t change until November.

‘I know and understand that not everything that everybody wanted is in the announcements I have made today,’ he said.

‘I just make this point, I have announced today what is safe.’

Just hours before the announcement, cabinet minister Karen Andrews joined an ever growing queue of federal Liberal MPs putting pressure on the premier to ease his restrictions.

‘We hope that Daniel Andrews shows the leadership that is needed in Victoria,’ she told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.

‘Daniels Andrews actually has shown himself to be a lockdown leader, we actually want that to change.’

The day before Mr Andrews accused federal Health Minister Greg Hunt of ‘playing games’ after he urged the Victorian leader to move to the next step in line with NSW.

Federal Labor front bencher Tanya Plibersek was unimpressed.

‘I think it’s actually really gross that federal Liberal MPs are trying to use this as an attack on Daniel Andrews,’ she told ABC television’s Insiders.

‘He hasn’t done it for popularity, he’s done it because he’s considered it the right thing to do. The federal government ought to be looking at its own role in Victoria’s difficulties including aged care.

 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk