Melbourne businesses will continue operating under ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions for another seven days, after the Victorian government extended the state’s fourth lockdown in the city.
In a press conference this morning, Acting Premier James Merlino said it was necessary to extend the lockdown a further week in metropolitan Melbourne to contain the outbreak of coronavirus cases.
“We now have 60 local cases and more than 350 exposure sites, and a variant of the virus that is quicker and more contagious than we’ve seen before,” he said.
The extended lockdown means Melbourne businesses will be forced to either remain closed or only offer takeaway and click-and-collect services until midnight Thursday June 10.
Restrictions on businesses in regional Victoria will ease from midnight tomorrow, allowing restaurants and cafes to reopen to a maximum of 50 people. Retail, beauty and personal care, entertainment venues and community facilities will be able to reopen in line with density limits.
The government announced a further $209.3 million in grants for the 70,000 small- and medium-sized businesses in greater Melbourne, bringing the state’s total business support package to $460 million.
The announcement comes after the state’s health department recorded six new locally acquired cases of COVID-19. None of the cases include aged care residents or staff.
On Tuesday, more than 51,000 test results were received, and 20,585 Victorians were vaccinated.
Reported yesterday: 6 new local cases and no new cases acquired overseas.
– 20,585 vaccine doses were administered
– 51,033 test results were received
— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) June 1, 2021
The state-wide lockdown, which began at midnight last Thursday, was first scheduled to end after seven days.
Under the restrictions, essential shops like supermarkets, bottle shops, banks, petrol stations and pharmacies have been able to remain open. However, cafes and restaurants are only permitted to offer takeaway.
Gyms, hairdressers, and entertainment venues have all been forced to close, and non-essential retail businesses can offer click-and-collect services.
Melbourne’s now 14-day lockdown is the longest lockdown enforced in any city since the JobKeeper wage subsidy ended on March 28.
Despite the Victorian government announcing a support package for businesses, the extended lockdown has renewed calls for the federal government to assist businesses affected by local outbreaks.
The Council for Small Business Organisations (COSBOA) is urging the National Cabinet, which includes the prime minister and state and territory premiers, to create a national program to support businesses affected by local COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns.
Peter Strong, chief executive of COSBOA, said the program should be modelled on New Zealand’s COVID-19 support program, which allows businesses to access financial support when significant restrictions are in place for more than seven days.
“Our friends across the Tasman are ahead of us in this area,” Strong said.
“Not having states does make it easier for them, but our states and territories can still choose to work together through the National Cabinet. Instead, they have chosen to turn inwards and play politics,” he said.