Coronavirus update for business: Restrictions start easing, Uber bails out Lime, and an economic kick up the butt

Uber Lime

Tentative re-openings

After Scott Morrison announced his ‘three-step plan’ to ease COVID-19 restrictions last week, all the states and territories have now revealed their own roadmaps, some of which will allow small businesses to start operating again soon.

In South Australia, non-essential travel is being actively encouraged within the state, from today, with caravan parks and camping grounds re-opening with restrictions in place. Restaurants and cafes are also able to offer outdoor dining, with a maximum of 10 patrons at any one time.

As of Friday, Queensland is allowing dining in for up to 10 people, and opening up some beauty therapy and nail salons.

New South Wales restrictions will also be eased on Friday, also allowing for 10 people to be seated at any one time.

Daniel Andrews has this morning announced eased restrictions in Victoria, allowing for outdoor gathers of up to 10 people. However, there’s no mention of the state of play for hospitality businesses just yet.

Digital vouchers

Another week of coronavirus life, another platform facilitating voucher purchases for local businesses.

This time, payments and marketing provider Live group has launched a digital voucher platform through its new Live local app.

The platform is open to any business, including veterinary and dental practices, and sole traders such as taxi drivers, as well as businesses in the retail and hospitality space.

Businesses can sign up for free and create vouchers powered by QR codes.

“It’s an unprecedented time, so we’ve designed a platform that not only gives business owners the means to continue to make sales through an alternative stream but also takes the pressure off their own, potentially limited, marketing resources,” Live group chief Reuvan Barukh said in a statement.

Uber with a hint of Lime

Embattled scooter-sharing startup Lime has secured a US$170 million investment, from rather an unlikely source: ride-sharing behemoth Uber.

As part of the deal, Lime has acquired Uber’s bike-sharing business Jump. Uber’s red bikes launched on the streets of Melbourne in early-March, and lasted just three weeks, before the rollout was paused due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

According to PitchBook emerging tech analyst Asad Hussain, the deal means Uber can reduce operating costs for the bike service, “which should help the company navigate the downturn in the near-term”.

At the same time, it’s a lifeline for Lime, which last month paused its own services in every country it operates in, except for South Korea. The startup reportedly laid off 13% of its global workforce last week ⁠— the second cut of this size since the COVID-19 crisis began.

However, the business is looking at a substantially deflated valuation. The investment reportedly values Lime at $510 million — a 79% drop from the $2.4 billion of its last funding round, less than a year ago.

Last week, Uber also announced it was laying off 3,700 employees — about 14% of its workforce.

A new new normal?

Finally, rather than getting out of the COVID-19 pandemic and back to normal, Labor leader Anthony Albanese is calling for an epic shake-up to the economic landscape, citing a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity for Australia.

“Our challenge must be to recover, stronger … not just to return to as we were,” Albanese is expected to say.

He will reportedly be calling for decentralised government services, and a boost to the manufacturing sector, as well as high-speed rail, in order to emerge from the pandemic more resilient.

“Let’s not ‘snap back’ to insecure work, to job seekers stuck in poverty, to scientists being ignored.”

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