“A cloud of concern”: Small businesses enter summer trading amid rising COVID-19 cases


Melissa Glentis, owner of Major Mitchell Cafe in Melbourne. Source: Supplied.

Business owners are approaching the summer trading period with trepidation, as rising COVID-19 case numbers put workers out of action and increase the likelihood of tighter restrictions.

Avi Efrat, owner of a group of seven Fantastic Framing stores across NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, says while there are currently only minor restrictions affecting his stores, there’s still “a cloud of concern” about snap restrictions in Victoria and keeping his staff levels healthy.

“Basically, there’s a cloud of concern that there will be more restrictions in Victoria because that’s where the hardest restrictions have been,” Efrat tells SmartCompany.

Several of Efrat’s 35-strong team have needed to isolate in the past two weeks, after attending a Christmas party that someone who had contracted COVID-19 also attended.

‘So, that side of things is affecting us too, now one of them is a close contact,” he says.

For Melissa Glentis, owner of Major Mitchell Cafe in the Melbourne suburb of Carnegie, the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases are already having a dramatic effect on trade.

“For the first time in our trading history we’re closing over the Christmas period until the 4th [of January] because it’s one of the quietest Christmas periods we’ve ever experienced,” Glentis tells SmartCompany.

Glentis says the possibility that the Victorian government will enforce restrictions is “a constant stress point” that’s always in the back of her mind.

“It’s a fear that’s very hard to let go of and I’m constantly looking at how to be prepared for increased restrictions,” Glentis tells SmartCompany.

“I think restrictions are something that we just have to be ready for at all times,” she adds.

NSW recorded 3763 new cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, and 3057 new cases on Monday. Meanwhile, Victoria reported 1503 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, after reporting 1245 cases on Monday.

The spike in cases comes as the national cabinet will hold an emergency meeting today, where state and federal leaders will discuss whether public health measures should change.

Ahead of the meeting, the Doherty Institute prepared modelling for the government, which predicts that without low-to-medium restrictions, about 200,000 cases of the Omicron variant could be recorded daily by early February, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Some states have already moved to tighten restrictions, including Queensland where Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk extended a mask mandate to include more indoor settings from 5am tomorrow.

From that date, hospitality workers will be required to mask up as well as people attending in-door theatres and cinemas.


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