The region’s peak business organisation, Business Hunter, has today said the rapid climb in local COVID cases and options to deal with it have cast a shadow over the lifting of restrictions that have been implemented today.
Business Hunter CEO, Bob Hawes, said while overall the restrictions easing is welcome, the circumstances facing Newcastle are unique to the rest of the state, and the outbreak was a real setback and challenge for businesses who were only just starting to claw back some trade after months of lockdowns.
“Businesses in our region should be feeling the same sense of opportunity that most of the state are enjoying today after six months of lockdowns and restricted trade.
“Instead, many are now facing a number of dilemmas – most importantly the health and wellbeing of themselves and their teams.
Mr Hawes said the update provided by Premier Perrottet, Minister Hazzard and Kerry Chant reinforced measures business and communities should take to increase the safety of everyone as the state and region moves into the phase of living with the virus.
“Despite this, we know venues are fielding cancellations, as guests and community members are assessing and taking a risk-averse approach and calling off end of year gatherings – many are feeling like our city may end up in a lockdown by default. Trade confidence is lowering as a result.
“We appreciate the change to definition of close contact announced today and welcome the opportunity for people to re-join the community once they get a positive PCR test but there will still be disruption as the virus spreads.
For businesses, safety is a priority, but taking a financial hit by having to close and cease trade to clean or re-adjust staffing – even two days for some businesses may be the last straw,” Mr Hawes said.
“I wish we were out today celebrating the optimistic milestone our business community so deserves and I hope we can get some answers from leaders today as to what the health and safety obligations are for business.
“Business Hunter is hoping that the cycle of infection is controlled quickly and appropriate protocols for business are communicated quickly so that large sections of the community and business are not forced into offline mode again.
“Today was supposed to be a day of stepping forward, not uncertainty and anxiety for businesses who should be welcoming people back with open arms and celebrating a tough year with their staff and friends at our region’s great venues.
“Now more than ever we need to remind community to take responsibility for your health and that of the people you work with and venues you wish to visit and respect the restrictions or controls venues put in place notwithstanding the easing of measure today.
“If you are even slightly unwell, please don’t go out or mix in social situations. Get tested and ultimately take up the vaccination or booster so that transmission can be contained and serious illness limited,” said Mr Hawes.
Business Hunter urges all businesses to familiarise themselves with supports that are still in place, where a business closure results in hardship and distress