Frustration over Melbourne’s coronavirus lockdown mounts as business begs for restrictions to be eased

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When Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the state’s tough stage 4 restrictions, Melbourne carwash owner Belinda Bedin was very supportive.

She even thought the Premier should have acted sooner and enforced stricter measures.

But as Melbourne enters 100 days of lockdown this weekend, Ms Bedin’s faith in Mr Andrews and his government’s COVID-19 restrictions has nosedived.

“To be going on for so long, I’ve lost all faith, support, confidence in what’s going on, it’s just too long,” she said.

“I’ve been closed at my carwash for 11 weeks without any money coming in, no income.”

Ms Bedin said she was confused as to why her carwash business, which requires people to wash their own cars in large bays using virus-killing disinfectants, is not allowed to open.

Her Mornington business in Melbourne’s south-east is one of about 1,000 carwash businesses impacted by the restrictions.

“It’s just ludicrous really that it’s not open.”

Business owners ‘fed up’

Melbourne photographer Lauren Bamford said she was a supporter of Mr Andrews and lives in “leftie Brunswick” in Melbourne’s inner-north.

But she is also confused about why she cannot work.

“I was understanding of why things needed to stop … but I’m also a really reasonable person and I think we should be given the opportunity to work safely,” she said.

“The mood is definitely changing amongst photographers — when the restrictions were first brought in, everybody was understanding.

“Since this week there have been suggestions the business restrictions won’t be lifted as planned, everybody’s basically hit a point now where they’re completely fed up.”

She said photography was a low-risk industry and she could easily work safely by capping crew levels and only working outdoors.

Ms Bamford said messaging from the State Government was “vague” and businesses were being forced to play “guessing games” about what might be announced on Sunday.

Business leaders urge reopening

Such frustration amongst small business owners in Melbourne has prompted lobby group the Business Council of Australia to urge the Victorian Government to go further than the flagged easing of restrictions.

Chief executive Jennifer Westacott said she would like to see all business reopen.

“We now need a plan that brings forward the opening up of the Victorian economy,” she said.

“A plan that is certain for business, a plan that has some very clear timetables and a plan that sees the Victorian economy opening.”

Ms Westacott said Victoria now had coronavirus case numbers that were similar to New South Wales.

“They’ve been able to open their economy and create over 300,00 jobs back and we need to see the same from Victoria,” she said.

She said Victoria needed to open up more quickly, but in a COVID-safe way.

“I think Victorians are entitled to ask why are we persisting with these targets when clearly we have the numbers coming down,” she said.

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The Premier yesterday again defended keeping tougher restrictions in Victoria than are currently in place in NSW.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Wednesday that Victoria , and restrictions in Melbourne should be eased.

“It’s just a fact that New South Wales has not had 4,278 mystery cases across the pandemic as it’s unfolded,” Mr Andrews said.

“They’ve not had the virus get into some of the settings that have been typical of this second wave.

“What I would say is on Sunday, we’re going to be able to take some steps, we’ll be closer to the New South Wales position than we have been for months.”

The State Opposition again called for Victoria to start reopening.

“Daniel Andrews must allow Victorians to get back to work now safely, otherwise there just won’t be jobs for thousands of Victorians to return to,” Shadow Treasurer Louise Staley said.

“What Victorians need is hope, not more restrictions that destroy jobs and destroy hope.”

Ms Bedin urged the Premier to heed the calls from small businesses like hers and allow them to open with COVID-safe plans.

“Businesses need to be open, we need to start living with COVID, it’s not going to go away but we need to open up and start living again,” she said.

By Elias Clure (Original ABC Article)

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