The NSW Government has reopened the border to Victoria today, Monday 23 November, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying the move allowed people to make plans, book holidays and reunite with family members in the lead up to Christmas. The border decision was followed by a major budget aimed at encouraging NSW locals and interstate holidaymakers to visit the state’s struggling cafes, restaurants and cultural institutions.
In Victoria, Paul Guerra, Chief Executive of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, “While we also welcome the opening of the NSW border, I’m hoping we can all commit to spending our dollars by buying local and holidaying in our state this summer to help restore our once vibrant economy.”
Crucially, the ‘ring of steel’ border between metropolitan and regional Victoria dropped earlier this month, on 8 November. This means the 25-kilometre travel limit within the state was removed, enabling commuters and holidaymakers to travel between regional Victoria and Melbourne.
Victoria has also now moved into ‘Last Step’ restrictions. Effective from 11:59pm on Sunday 22 November 2020, the state has applied a significant easing of restrictions. Most notably, this means no restrictions on reasons to leave home, all retail can reopen, capacity of pubs and restaurants has increased with up to 150 inside and 300 outside, real estate inspections can take place, beauty and personal care can open with use of face masks, weddings and funerals can take place with up to 150 people, and limits have been eased for gyms, pools and outdoor sports. There will also be a phased return to workplaces for small, medium and large companies with up to 25% of staff permitted on site, and staggered arrival and exit times.
Daniel Andrews MP, Premier of Victoria, has said he will hold another press conference on Sunday December 6 to outline further steps towards a “COVID-normal summer” for Victoria.
An “eat out to help out” scheme could support Victorian hospitality
As border restrictions ease, the Victorian Government could consider taking a leaf out of the UK experience and establish an “eat out to help out” scheme, suggests Oliver Wade, Head of Marketing and Partnerships at OnDeck Australia. “This scheme was introduced in the UK in August to support cafes, bars and restaurants,” Oliver said.
The UK-wide government promotion gave people up to 50% off when eating – or drinking soft drinks – in a participating restaurant and other food establishments. The maximum discount was £10 (AUD$18) per person and was valid all-day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in August. Monday – Wednesday are generally lower volume days for pubs, restaurants and cafes.
In this week’s NSW Budget, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet committed to a similar stimulus measure by giving every adult four $25 vouchers to spend separately on dining and entertainment. The $500 million ‘Out and About’ scheme aims to encourage visits to struggling cafes, restaurants and cultural institutions.
Oliver Wade said, “People may be worried about returning to eat out in Melbourne and regional Victoria. However, to address these concerns, SMEs are putting in place COVID-secure measures such as contactless payments, social distancing, protective screens, one-way walking systems, online table bookings and reduced capacity seating arrangements.”
Paul Guerra concurred, “As we take this next step, the State Government must trust business to operate in a COVID safe way just as Victorians need to have faith in the Government’s contact tracing system and the ability of our health officials to respond to isolated outbreaks.”
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