An online petition urging the government to bring the COVID-19 restrictions on beauty into alignment with hair and retail has surpassed 18,000 signatures in under three days, with the organiser slamming the Premier for the seemingly gendered nature of his reopening plan.
According to Victoria’s roadmap, in metropolitan Melbourne, hairdressers are permitted to reopen at the same time as a majority of retailers, but not before the commencement of stage 3, which is due to kick in sometime after 26 October.
Beauty parlours and other personal care providers will remain shut until the last step, which will only be achievable from 23 November if Victoria achieves zero new cases for 14 days straight.
Similarly, regional beauty parlours must also remain shut until late November.
Business owners have hit out at the Andrews government over this apparent discrepancy, with the petition author, Laser Skin & Body owner Katelyn Wheatley arguing that thousands of workers and business owners, a majority of whom are women, are being unfairly disadvantaged.
“You state that Victoria’s coronavirus policies are driven by science and data. However, to date, there have been no coronavirus outbreaks linked to our industry. The closure of our industry has been based upon unscientific surface-level speculation,” Ms Wheatley wrote.
“Our industry operates under medical-level sanitation and hygiene protocols. We wear gloves. We wear masks. We disinfect all touch points and all equipment after each use. These protocols have been in place long before the pandemic came to our state and will continue to be upheld long after it passes.”
Ms Wheatley also took aim at the Chief Health Officer who appeared to concede on 6 September that there is no science-based explanation for the polarised treatment of hair and beauty.
“Professor Sutton declared, on behalf of your government, that beauty was simply less essential than hair. This commentary, in the absence of any scientific delineation, is gendered. It is an indictment on a female-dominant industry and a female-dominant client base,” the author of the petition said.
Ms Wheatley implored the Premier to re-evaluate his position in respect of the industry and emulate the approach taken in New South Wales and Queensland.
“We appreciate the immense difficulty in balancing the easing of restrictions. We agree that the health of Victorians is the paramount consideration,” she said.
“Our business is the health and wellbeing of thousands of women. That means that you must reconsider the approach canvassed on 6 September 2020.”
Ms Wheatley’s petition has drawn a lot of commentary from disgruntled business owners, with one writing: “My business is in lockdown — my children are missing out and I don’t have money to keep the business going. We are on the poverty line.”
Another said: “Beauty salons/clinics in my experience have always had a high level of hygiene practices in place and should not be penalised as opposed to other similar personal treatments.”