Victorian businesses can expect a change in restrictions in the coming weeks, as Premier Daniel Andrews prepares to unveil a plan to guide the state out of stage four COVID-19 restrictions.
After weeks of uncertainty over the future of business-crushing rules that have forced many to shut down or otherwise curtail operations, Andrews has provided a brief outline of what Victoria’s reopening roadmap will look like.
Companies should prepare for a continuation of many health, hygiene and contract tracing rules, as well as new provisions that will look to move some office-based activities outside.
Here’s what we know so far about the ‘reopening roadmap’.
The Victorian government says it will unveil a reopening roadmap on Sunday (September 6), outlining how the state will move from current stage four restrictions to a new system expected to ease many existing rules.
Business groups are working with the government this week on the final details of the plan, which is being developed on an industry-by-industry basis.
There is no guidance yet about the time frame the roadmap will operate on, or what could come after its implementation.
A phone hook-up took place last night to discuss the plan, with 150 participants calling in from government and business peak bodies such as the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI).
VCCI chief executive Paul Guerra says the government must either provide a concrete timeline for when restrictions will be gradually eased or, at the very least, stipulate under what conditions this would happen.
“Businesses are sensible enough to know we won’t be going from zero to 100,” Guerra tells SmartCompany.
“What we’re looking for is a clear roadmap that says ‘when [the virus] gets to this level, this is the likely opening plan for businesses’.”
Guerra is also pushing the state government to introduce plans for how to deal with coronavirus outbreaks without locking the state down, as has been done twice previously.
“We can’t keep locking down the state in the case of an outbreak; we need to learn from what the other states are doing,” he says.
Victoria’s jobs minister Martin Pakula said a further nine different industry-specific consultations will be held on Tuesday to go through the plan in more detail.
What we know so far
The final plan has not yet been released, but Andrews said there would be four key principles guiding Victoria’s path out of stage four rules.
- Ensuring physical distancing, including making sure staff work from home “wherever possible”;
- Wearing face coverings at all times in the workplace and making sure PPE is worn in “high-risk” settings;
- Maintaining hygienic workplaces where “high-touch points” are cleaned regularly and sanitiser is available; and
- Committing to act quickly if a staff member becomes unwell, and having plans in place if a worker or customer has tested positive, including maintaining contact tracing records.
Essentially, the headline rules associated with COVIDSafe plans in Victoria and other jurisdictions across the country will still apply.
Plus, there are some additional rules outlined by the government that could necessitate big changes in workplaces.
These include workforce bubbles that, wherever possible, would see businesses limit the number of staff who have close contact through staggered shifts.
Other aspects of the proposed framework include moving lunch breaks, meetings and team catch-ups outside under a requirement to avoid enclosed spaces wherever possible.
The ABC, which reported details of initial consultations with businesses, says Andrews is considering a “traffic light system”, which would split each industry into one of four risk profiles, and govern how each of the above principles would be applied.
Of course, this is nothing new.
The government used a similar system to guide business shutdowns when stage four was implemented last month: a red status for companies that must remain closed, orange for heavily restricted businesses, yellow for those with lighter restrictions, and green where companies can open with COVIDSafe plans.