Business readies for 5 days of lockdown

31/01/2021 - 16:48

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WA’s peak business body has backed the state government’s snap move for a five day lockdown, but the national retail industry association was less impressed.

Perth Fringe Festival in Northbridge this afternoon. Photo: Matt Mckenzie

WA’s peak business body has backed the state government’s snap move for a five day lockdown, but the national retail industry association was less impressed. 

In the hours leading up to Premier Mark McGowan’s announcement of a lockdown for the Perth, Peel and South West regions today, which followed a hotel quarantine guard testing positive for COVID-19, supermarkets were already becoming crowded.

And as the day wore on, shoppers queued up and stocked up on essentials for the week ahead.

The gates were shut at Perth Fringe Festival’s Pleasure Garden by 2:30pm, while small retailers, bar service staff and some customers began donning masks, which will be compulsory from 6pm.

But responses have varied.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA said it supported the government’s decision, which it said was necessary and appropriate, particularly given the hotel quarantine guard may have contracted the highly transmissible UK strain of COVID-19.

“The first priority of government and other decision-makers must be on keeping the community safe,” CCI chief executive Chris Rodwell said.

“As the situation evolves over coming days, it is important that the community fully supports West Australian businesses.

“Our State has been very fortunate in recent months to live with great freedom. 

“This has often meant many of us have observed less social distancing than in other states. 

“Businesses in the accommodation, hospitality, arts, recreation, events and tourism industries will be particularly troubled by recent developments, as will those businesses that rely on the transport of goods across the Perth metro, Peel and South West regions. 

“Ultimately, the best way that the WA community can help local businesses is to remain calm and to follow the directions of the state government, which can be found at www.wa.gov.au.”

However, the Australian Retailers Association said it was deeply concerned the government had not consulted affected businesses, before putting the restrictions in place.

Association chief executive Paul Zahra criticised the lockdown and policy of QR codes at retail businesses, arguing it showed a lack of respect for the impact of the decisions on the business community.

“The decisions over the past week are strongly out of step with successful practice in the rest of the country,” Mr Zahra said.

“We have been living with Covid for nearly a year now with ample time to get reasonable business communication in place. 

“With a hot spot approach showing powerful results around the country, it makes little sense to continue shutting down local economies whenever new cases emerge, let alone just one case.

“While we understand the need to keep the community safe, we cannot be treating businesses like a light switch and turn things off when a case pops up. 

“It’s not responsible or safe for business to find out what’s imposed via the media with no opportunity for preparation or input - particularly when there is a panic reaction from the public.

“We have to learn to live with Covid and manage things in a responsible way without devastating business and livelihoods.”

Mr Zahra said there had been no consistency between state and territory governments on policies, and called for a national approach.

Prior to today’s lockdown announcement, WA had the lowest unemployment rate of any state in Australia, with only the two territories faring better.

Retail spending hit record highs in some months in the second half of 2020.

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