A group of 80 Australian CEOs have called on the state and federal governments to “stay the course” on the COVID-19 reopening roadmap, citing the struggle of small businesses as one of the drivers to move away from lockdowns.
The business leaders highlight the ongoing economic and mental health risks of “keeping our country divided and cut off from the world, our children out of schools, our friends apart from loved ones, and our small businesses closed”.
Under the current roadmap, based on modelling from the Doherty Institute and announced at the end of July, restrictions are set to ease when 70% of the eligible population, aged 16 and over, is fully vaccinated. At this point, lockdown measures will be ‘less likely but possible’.
At the time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he hoped this would be the case by the end of 2021.
When 80% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, the roadmap would move to ‘phase C’, with only highly targeted lockdowns being announced.
“We need to stay the course,” the letter says.
The letter is signed by 80 Australian business leaders, primarily from the bigger end of town, such as MYOB, Coles and Woolies, Accenture and EY.
Tech companies such as Salesforce, Uber and Cochlear are also represented.
Combined, these businesses employ more than 1 million people in Australia, the letter claims.
Today, we published an open letter in major newspapers across Australia. We ask governments to work together to implement the National Plan and chart a path out of the current lockdowns.
— Business Council of Australia (@BCAcomau) August 31, 2021
The leaders point to the ongoing effect of COVID-19 lockdowns, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, “on our people, on our customers, on our small business suppliers”.
“Australia is juggling a mental health emergency at the same time as a global pandemic. Some of the impacts of current lockdowns are hidden, and the effects will be long lasting,” the letter said.
As the vaccination rate increases, the signatories call for lockdown restrictions to ease, saying it will become necessary to “live with the virus, in the same way that other countries have done”.
They call on state and federal governments to work together to implement the current National Plan and “chart a path” out of the current lockdowns.
“Providing a light at the end of the tunnel will encourage more Australians to get vaccinated,” the letter says.
“We need to give people something to hope for, something to look forward to.”
Certainty in uncertain times
A spokesperson for MYOB, which provides software solutions to SMEs, tells SmartCompany it is encouraging to see Australians getting the vaccines in such high numbers, “to help us open up and put small businesses back in business”.
But the reopening roadmap also offers some certainty for business owners that has been lacking.
“MYOB supports measures that provide clarity and certainty for small businesses so they can confidently reopen their doors,” the spokesperson says.
The news comes as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews prepares to unveil a reopening roadmap for the state in his press conference today. It is expected that changes to the lockdown rules will be based on both COVID-19 case numbers and the vaccination rate.
Today, Victoria has recorded 120 new cases, and almost 35% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated.
Last week, New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian announced some easing of restrictions in Sydney, after the state passed the milestone of 6 million vaccinations.
However, today’s letter hasn’t been entirely met with praise. The Business Council of Australia’s tweet sharing it attracted responses suggesting that public health should be the first priority, even if it means remaining in lockdown for longer.
Others commented on the letter’s focus on mental health, questioning whether all the signatories are doing enough to support their workers during lockdown, or offering secure work and adequate wages.
Its amazing how big business and right wingers have suddenly become concerned for people’s mental health. You know what else has a real impact on people’s mental health? Shitty wages, casualization, insecure work etc. Looking forward to your open letter about this
— L.V. Morris (@lvmorris76) August 31, 2021