Roadmap out of lockdown


21st September, 2021

‘Roadmap out of lockdown’ delivered for two key COVID battlegrounds

Both NSW and Victoria have both unveiled a roadmap out of lockdown, giving businesses across the region an indication of what to expect in the weeks ahead.

With Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland in lockdown and their neighbouring populations under threat of further disruptions due to the COVID-19 Delta variant, the entire region is currently looking to recent announcements from just two Australian state premiers to get a sense of which way the wind is blowing.

With Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews having released the state’s roadmap on Sunday, we now have two approaches to compare and contrast – and the media have wasted no time in doing so.

Both Andrews and NSW premier Gladys Berijiklian have clearly stated that only vaccinated citizens will be able to enjoy freedoms. This is in line with national cabinet agreements to wind back restrictions when 70 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, and will extend once the nation reaches 80 percent fully vaccinated.

So, what do these roadmaps contain and how do they differ? We provide key details for business owners below, followed by a discussion on how important they are not only for the businesses directly impacted, but also for their neighbours nearby.

Victoria’s roadmap out of lockdown

Victoria recorded 603 new COVID-19 cases today, the highest daily tally in 2021, arriving in the wake of the state premier’s delivery of a plan that will hopefully take us beyond blanket lockdowns in the months to come.

The Roadmap to Deliver the National Plan, unveiled in recent days, is based on expert modelling from the Burnet Institute and comes after broad government acceptance that ‘COVID-zero’ is no longer a feasible option.

Premier Daniel Andrews has taken a more conservative approach, outlining a slower road out of lockdown than NSW, to ensure the hospital system isn’t flooded with catastrophic numbers of COVID-19 patients.

The roadmap has revealed that Melburnians will remain in hard lockdown for another five weeks, with the exit strategy split into four stages. The easing of restrictions will begin in Victoria next week, when 80 percent of eligible Victorians are expected to be ‘single-dose vaccinated’.

When 80 percent of Victorians are fully vaccinated, likely on 5 November by current estimates, the same rules will apply for both regional Victoria and Melbourne. A vaccine passport is expected to be working by then, allowing people’s vaccination status to be revealed via a QR check-in code.

  • Victorians can’t visit others in their home until the state is 80% vaccinated, as this has been the most dangerous setting for virus transmission throughout the pandemic
  • Schools are expected to re-open on October 5 as part of a staged return to classrooms. And when the state reaches 70 percent fully vaccinated, likely on 26 October, the five permitted reasons for leaving the home will be scrapped, while pubs and clubs can open to 50 fully vaccinated people sitting in the open air
  • The government will conduct trials to support businesses as much as possible in the lead up to transition to a vaccinated economy. Both one-off events and specific venues will be considered, with businesses able to operate with higher patron caps if all staff and patrons provide evidence of full vaccination
  • Details about additional funding to councils and businesses to get more activities outside will be released soon. And there are hopes that Victorians will be able to have 30 visitors to the home by late December, when interstate travel is also on the cards

New South Wales’ roadmap to freedom

Today, NSW reported 1,022 new local coronavirus cases and 10 deaths, while lockdowns are being reintroduced in the Byron, Kempsey and Tweed council areas in northern NSW from 5pm today for seven days.

In the past fortnight, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian unveiled a roadmap that is still subject to a range of specific rules and measures to ensure the hospital system can cope with increased COVID-19 cases. Changes could apply if health advice if circumstances change, or if cases remain too high within certain local government areas or industry sectors.

The Reopening NSW Roadmap will come into effect on the Monday after NSW hits the 70 percent double dose target. It includes up to five visitors allowed in a home where all adults are vaccinated and up to 20 people able to gather in outdoor settings.

Premier Berejiklian has also been clear that freedoms will only be granted to those who have been double-vaccinated

  • The roadmap will also allow hospitality venues to reopen subject to one person per four sq/m inside, and one person per two sq/m outside, with standing while drinking permitted outside
  • Retail stores can reopen under the one person per four sq/m rule, while unvaccinated people will continue to be able to access critical retail only
  • Personal services such as hairdressers and nail salons can open with one person per four sq/m, capped at five clients per premises
  • Gyms and outdoor recreation facilities can open under the one person per four sq/m rule and can offer classes for up to 20 people. Sporting facilities including swimming pools can reopen

NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the easing of restrictions would come as a huge relief to struggling businesses and workers, who want to get their lives back on track, safely.

“This roadmap gives us the light at the end of the tunnel we all want and will enable our economy to start firing again, driving our state back to prosperity,” said Perrottet.

When NSW hits the 80 percent double dose target, the government intends to open up further freedoms around international travel, community sport, major events and other areas. Indoor hospitality venues and return will open up with strict density requirements of one person per four square metres.

Employers must continue to allow employees to work from home if the employee is able to do so.

There will be a revised guidance on isolation for close and casual contacts who are fully vaccinated, with details to be provided closer to the reopening date.

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The business outlook: Unlocking can’t come soon enough

The time taken for Australia to move beyond lockdowns in some of its most populous areas has been labelled a blow to business by industry advocates, who are disappointed at the prospect of several more weeks of shutdowns, resulting in lost trade.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is seeking clarity on what the expectations placed on businesses to ensure only vaccinated shoppers are entering stores.

Chief executive of the ARA, Paul Zahra says while it’s hairdressers and personal care services can reopen at 70 percent double dose, other retail businesses face a longer wait, limiting their ability to trade in the lead-up to the Christmas period.

“Victorian businesses have been desperate for hope and certainty out of the ongoing Delta devastation, and whilst the roadmap details what life will look like after lockdown, it’s disappointing that most of discretionary retail has been the hardest hit throughout the pandemic.

“Many small businesses are on the brink of financial, emotional and mental health collapse.

“Sadly, they’ll be closed for at least another seven weeks, while other sections of the economy can open and trade at 70 percent double dose.”

Meanwhile, the Business Council of Australia says lockdowns are costing the economy $3 billion a week. Chief executive Jennifer Westacott has been pushing for restrictions to be wound back restrictions that make it too difficult to plan and do business.

“If we fail to plan now, Australia risks falling behind as other nations get on with the task of attracting new investment, new jobs and new opportunities,” Westacott said.

“The longer we delay planning to reopen and reunite, the bigger the risk to our international reputation as a good place to do business, invest, visit and create jobs.”

MYOB’s chief executive, Greg Ellis recently penned an op-ed for The Age, which detailed the impact of ongoing lockdowns on local businesses.

“Right now, most of Australia’s Eastern seaboard is constrained by lockdowns and the strain is profound. MYOB data shows that EFT deposits declined 31 percent in NSW, 30 percent in Victoria and 50 percent in ACT in the week preceding September 7.

“Invoice creation was down 27 percent in NSW and decreased 47 percent in ACT in the same timeframe.”

Ellis wrote the data also highlights serious impacts for employment in these lockdown-effected areas.

“Our data shows gross pay for [small-and-medium business] employees has declined 30 percent in NSW, 20 percent in Victoria and 45 percent in ACT, demonstrating the effects of the 2021 lockdowns on people’s pockets.

“If you consider that small businesses are a significant national employer, representing 41 percent of the Australian workforce, the ripple effect of this situation to the economy is immense.”

What roadmaps mean for states’ neighbours

NSW is predicted to hit the 70 percent double-dose target around 8 October, ahead of Victoria, which expects to reach this target around 26 October by current estimates.

As NSW and Victoria have consistently had the highest number of COVID cases in the region, these announcements will determine what other states of Australia do next, and what their respective roadmap to freedom looks like.

Meanwhile, there is hope that the pause on quarantine-free flights between New Zealand and Australia could be lifted in time for Christmas, all going well.

Of course, it all comes with a big caveat, which is how high cases continue to rise as Victoria and NSW step through their various plans. If hospitalisations begin to climb higher than expected, any plans to unlock our population centres — and borders — could turn out to be made in vain.