Hairdressers furious as Morrison balks at shutdown demands and lifts coronavirus restrictions

hairdressers

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has failed to answer industry demands for forced closure. AAP/Sam Mooy.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has balked at hairdressers’ demands for an immediate closure order of salons across the country, announcing Thursday morning the government would instead lift restrictions on hair salons, placing staff at potentially higher risk.

Less than two days after exempting hairdressers from stage-two trading restrictions aimed at beauty services, Morrison said a requirement to complete appointments in 30 minutes or less would be lifted in response to widespread criticism about workability.

“Following the receipt of feedback on the practical implementation of measures regarding barbers and hairdressers it was agreed by Premiers and Chief Ministers at National Cabinet last night that the instruction regarding 30 minutes per patron will be lifted,” Morrison said in a statement circulated Thursday morning.

The short statement, which further clarified social distancing measures requiring people to maintain a 1.5-metre distance from each other must still be adhered to, did not address industry fury about the risk posed to hairdressers who remain open as the coronavirus spreads.

Australian Hairdressing Council chief executive Sandy Chong has called on the federal government to extend its stage-two shutdown orders to hairdressers and barbers, accusing Morrison of ‘killing small businesses slowly’ by exempting the industry.

“It’s extremely frustrating that the chief medical officer just does not understand how he’s putting our industry at risk,” Chong tells SmartCompany.

“The pandemic is escalating so we’re going to close at some point.

“As a small business, here we are making appointments, cancelling appointments, remaking appointments, no one knows what’s going to happen in the next 48 hours.”

JustCuts, the largest hairdressing chain in the Southern Hemisphere, is also calling on the federal government to wind back its exemption.

Founder and chief executive Denis McFadden described the current policy as “bonkers”.

“It is physically impossible for stylists to do a shampoo or haircut without touching the client. It’s physically impossible for stylists to do their job and keep the 4sqm which National Cabinet now says “must be strictly observed”,” he said in a statement circulated Thursday.

“This is about health of everyone in our salons, our hairdressers and our clients. Hairdressing is not an essential service. Of course I would prefer this weren’t happening at all, and calling for the sector to be shut down might seem counterproductive but it simply must happen in the interests of people’s health.

“Without hairdressing being on the shut-down list, it is incredibly difficult for our franchise owners to take the heartbreaking but necessary steps to stand down workers so they can access available support or call for breathing space on leases.”

Other observers have taken to social media in recent days to question why the Morrison government exempted hairdressers from closure, while at the same time ordering other beauty services firms, including tanning salons, nail technicians and tattoo parlours, to close.

“These rollercoaster decisions are just irresponsible,” Chong says.

“I think the government think they’ve done us a favour, but they haven’t.”

Chong is sending a new letter to chief medical officer Brendan Murphy this afternoon with an urgent recommendation that hairdressers across the country should be closed immediately.

Chong has previously told SmartCompany hairdressers are at a particularly high health risk when serving customers due to the necessity for close physical contact between staff and patrons.

It is practically impossible for hairdressers to cut hair from 1.5 metres away, at least not without creating other safety hazards, Chong has said.

“Why is he [Morrison] putting our hairdressers and their families at risk to the coronavirus by allowing the public to come into salons?”

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