static image

Lockdowns need to be refined, localised and minimised – Don’t Panic

"Australia's governments must resist being pressured into ever tougher lockdowns by loudmouth commentators and instead recognise our community and our businesses deserve more considered and proportionate approaches to dealing with COVID,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.

"Armchair experts driving calls for all states to emulate Victoria's sometimes draconian response to periodic outbreaks demonstrate a woeful lack of understanding of how our economy works and ignore the past successes of more targeted actions and the economic carnage and mental stress that 'go hard, go early' go excessively causes.

"What we need is a new approach that puts at the forefront an ambition to refine, localise and minimise lockdowns. We need to do this until we reach a point where there is enough vaccine available and a sufficient proportion of the population vaccinated that we are able to cope with the impacts on our hospitals of COVID circulating in our cities, towns and regions.

"But instead, we face the rest of the year with state government enforced snap lockdowns at the same time as much of the rest of the world is pushing ahead with opening up and finding more durable ways of dealing with COVID.

"Misguided calls for NSW to start preparing lists of what is an essential worker or essential business forget the absolute chaos in the business community caused by other states’ ham-fisted attempts to codify essential services.

"Businesses and factories were closed in blanket health-based decisions and then were allowed to reopen after it was belatedly recognised the work they did was crucial to maintaining public health, medical supplies, food production & delivery, transport, communications, key utilities and infrastructure & construction.

"Designated non-essential businesses were closed despite employing some designated essential workers who then lost their jobs.

"It is best to keep it simple. If you can do your job at home stay at home. When at work, follow COVID-safe guidelines. This has worked in restricting movements to desired levels and in preventing transmission at workplaces and should be maintained.

"We can’t stress strongly enough that the costs of lockdowns are high. Estimates for Greater Sydney alone are up to $1 billion a week and commensurate estimates have been made for the costs in Victoria. The hardest hit are people who work or operate businesses in retail trade; hospitality services (e.g. cafes, restaurants, clubs, hotels, accommodation services); personal & other services (e.g. hair, beauty, gyms, repairs); transport services; and arts & recreational services. Also immediately impacted are businesses who supply those sectors.

"While not all of this spending is totally lost forever, that is no comfort if your income or cash flow falls to zero for an extended period. Arrangements for business support led by the Federal Government through this period are extremely welcome but to be effective payments from Canberra and the states must be finalised and rolled out quickly. Waiting more than two months for state support as was the case in Victoria from the May lockdown is not acceptable.

"What is clear from this pandemic is that it will be around for well after vaccines are widely available and extensively taken up. We therefore need to manage it as well as possible, plan for the long haul and stop being driven by panic and fear,” Mr Willox said.

Media enquiries: Tony Melville – 0419 190 347