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Victorian retailers and shopping centres face tough closures with Stage 4 restrictions

In the toughest restrictions to retail to date, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced today all retail will close with the exception of supermarket, fresh food stores and pharmacies. The new restrictions to businesses is part of the Stage 4 strategy as the Victorian state battles with rising cases of COVID-19. The restriction on retail will be in place from 11:59pm this Wednesday and the Premier urged the community not to panic buy due to the imminent closures. 

Businesses will be placed into one of three categories either closed, open with a COVID-safe plan or restricted operations. The exemptions from the closures announced on Monday include supermarkets, grocery, food and liquor shops; Convenience stores; petrol stations; pharmacies; post offices; hardware, building and garden supplies shops retailing for trade; maternity supplies; motor vehicle parts for emergency repairs only.

Retail stores will be permitted to operate contactless ‘click and collect’ and delivery services with strict safety protocols in place, and hardware stores can remain open onsite, but for tradespeople only.

It is estimated these latest changes will impact the employment of 250,000 employees adding to the already 250,000 Victorian’s currently unemployed. Approximately another 500,000 Victorians are working from home. Combined these numbers with the closed University and school systems, more than 2 million Victorians are now not travelling to and from work, and mingling in the community.

These strong measures described by Daniel Andrews as ‘heartbreaking’ for the Victorian economy are important measures to reduce the number of  COVID-19 infections and in the long-term protecting human lives.  The measures aim to reduce the spread of COVID-19, there are currently more than 6,000 active cases in Victoria.

From 2 August, one of the toughest restrictions have been put in to place with a curfew was put in to place in metropolitan Melbourne. Curfews will be in operation from 8pm to 5am every evening, with people only allowed to leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said businesses in regional Victoria that have been forced to close under stage three will have access to $5000 grants.

Businesses in Melbourne can apply for a further $5000 because they have been asked to close for longer than the initial six-week lockdown announced last month.

All open businesses and services will have until 11:59pm Friday 7 August to enact a COVIDSafe plan focused on safety, prevention and response in the event that coronavirus is linked to the workplace — because beating this virus requires a rapid response wherever it rears its head.

In addressing the productive construction industry Andrews said “Our construction sector, the lifeblood of our economy, will also move to pilot light levels. This will allow the industry to keep ticking — while also making sure we limit the number of people onsite.For major construction sites, that means the absolute minimum required for safety — but no more than 25 per cent of the normal workforce onsite. Small-scale construction will be limited to a maximum of five people onsite.”

On Monday, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has called on retailers to strongly recommend the use of face coverings by staff and customers to protect their health and safety within stores in national hotspots including parts of New South Wales along with the state of Victoria where significant COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring.

ARA CEO Mr Paul Zahra said: “Masks are now a focus globally as an important means of reducing the risk of infection for staff and customers as infections continue to spike. We are asking retailers around the country to introduce a store protocol which strongly encourages their use to help us get ahead of the infection rates.”

The challenging second wave has been the largest crisis the state has ever experienced and the state desperately is trying to avoid Stage 5 restrictions.

Premier Andrews concluded “This will be hard. It’ll be frustrating. It’ll be confusing. For a lot of workers and their families, it’ll be heartbreaking.But the only way to get people back to work and businesses back open is by making these tough decisions — and by Victorians abiding by them.”

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