Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a state-wide, five-day snap lockdown from 13 February to 17 February to contain a COVID outbreak that began within its hotel quarantine system.
However, small business ombudsman Kate Carnell said she was disappointed that the Victorian government is yet to announce what it will do to support the thousands of small businesses forced to shut up shop for five days with next to no notice.
“The Victorian government needs to urgently compensate small businesses impacted by this snap lockdown, such as florists and restaurants that had their storage rooms packed with supplies ahead of Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year celebrations,” she said.
“Many Victorian small businesses are understandably shattered by the latest sudden lockdown, given they were expecting their busiest day of trade in months. Many restaurants were fully booked all weekend and were not given time to cancel the delivery of their additional supplies.
“It is for this reason the Victorian government needs to immediately announce a compensation package for affected small businesses who have lost stock such as perishable food and fresh flowers.”
Ms Carnell also reiterated her stance earlier this week that compensation should also cover all other costs associated with running a business, including staff wages and rent.
“We know a lot of small businesses have lost thousands of dollars worth of stock through no fault of their own,” she said.
“It is unreasonable to expect these small businesses to shoulder the cost of this snap lockdown, given the nightmarish 12 months these cash-strapped small businesses have already been through.
“It’s absolutely critical these small businesses have the support and certainty they need from the Victorian government to recover from this.”
The Australian Industry Group responded that the lockdown has been a huge cost to business and the community, with the shutdown costing the state economy more than $2.3 billion in lost or postponed household spending alone.
“It is clear that testing and tracing were the keys to resolving this potential outbreak, and not the lockdown which was disproportionate to the risk,” said Ai Group Victorian head Tim Piper.
“We need to learn from this lockdown and adjust the responses accordingly. That means to immediately have another look at best practice quarantine around the country and not kick it down the road.”