30 March 2020

Business Chamber says more support needed for Canberra businesses

| Michael Weaver
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Canberra Business Chamber Interim CEO Graham Catt says “we have to face the difficult reality that we cannot save every business or every job”. Photo: Canberra Business Chamber.

As the shutdown of non-essential businesses takes hold, the Canberra Business Chamber says more support is needed for Canberra businesses.

“New restrictions that shut down ‘non-essential service’ businesses such as clubs, hotels and restaurants will decimate an industry that has been dealing with a severe downturn for months,” said Chamber Interim CEO Graham Catt.

“There’s no way to sugar coat this – the business support measures that have been announced, while welcome, won’t go far enough for the tourism and hospitality industry, and the many small businesses that supply them.

“We welcome Government assistance to help businesses keep their people, but now we have to face the difficult reality that we cannot save every business or every job,” Mr Catt said.

But as of midday yesterday (23 March), Australia entered a new era as the ACT Government enacted directions on the temporary closure of non-essential activities and businesses to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the situation is constantly evolving but it was important that the rules are the same throughout the Canberra region and in NSW.

For the ACT, the closure of businesses will include:

  • Pubs and registered clubs
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos and nightclubs
  • Restaurants and cafes, which will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings and places of worship (excluding small weddings and funerals that comply with the social isolation distancing rules).

Restaurants and cafes can continue cooking if they offer takeaway, and other businesses will need to adjust.

For schools, Mr Barr said the ACT is this week moving towards a program of alternative and online teaching models from term two as governments develop online materials to continue the curriculum if schools are shut. Details on school arrangements were outlined yesterday by Education Minister Yvette Berry.

Other businesses that are essential to society and will remain open include:

  • Supermarkets
  • Banks
  • Petrol stations
  • Pharmacies
  • Convenience stores
  • Freight and logistics
  • Food delivery
  • Bottle shops.

All businesses operating must meet social-distancing guidelines – keeping people 1.5 metres apart, and ensuring 4 square metres per person – and not have gatherings of more than 100 people indoors.

Physical distancing measures and frequent hand washing are strongly encouraged across all workplaces.

Any business that can transition to virtual work arrangements should start that process as soon as possible.

The Prime Minister has said people can leave their homes, but only if their travel is essential. That might be to go to the shops, go to work or go to the pharmacy.

People may exercise, but only in isolation.

“How the nation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic will profoundly change the way of life we have come to expect,” Mr Barr said.

“Our community must now adapt across all environments, including the workplace, to help slow the spread of the virus. If we don’t, more onerous and restrictive measures will be introduced.”

Meanwhile, a new Canberra website called Feed Feed is detailing what hospitality businesses are open and the extent of their services (takeaway or home delivery). You can add your business to the list or find out what each business is doing to adapt to new social distancing measures.

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