The Victorian Government has announced its plans to move to the next phase of pandemic management and the reopening of Australia’s second-biggest economy, which is fantastic news for the many thousands of small businesses that have survived hundreds of days of lockdowns since April 2020.
The Roadmap is based on expert modelling from the Burnet Institute. It is set against COVID-19 thresholds, including hospitalisation rates, and the vaccination targets already set out in the National Plan to transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response.
While the Victorian Government is no longer aiming for COVID zero, Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews says it’s “imperative we don’t jeopardise our health system as we open up – too many Victorians rely on it every day.”
The Burnet modelling also shows that the key to opening up and reducing risk in Victoria will be making sure workers across the state are vaccinated. To help ensure this risk is minimised, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer will assess vaccination requirements for all authorised workers in Victoria in each business sector. There are already vaccine requirements for aged care, construction, and freight workforces.
Double vaccination targets
When Victoria reaches 70% double dose vaccinations, changes will include increasing numbers for public gatherings outdoors, funerals, weddings and religious congregations – with larger caps for fully vaccinated people.
Creative studios, amusement parks, entertainment venues, and hospitality will reopen with patron cap and density limits but only to fully vaccinated people.
Both one-off events and specific venues will be considered – with businesses permitted to operate with higher patron caps if all staff and patrons provide evidence of full vaccination. Areas in regional Victoria with the highest vaccination rates and no COVID-19 cases will be the first to be considered for these trials.
Proof of vaccination options will also be part of the trials. The Service Victoria app will be integrated with a Medicare Certificate that shows proof of vaccination. Other proof of vaccination options may also be trialled to determine what works best for businesses and patrons.
Operating outside to beat COVID
Another critical part of the Roadmap when Victoria hits the 70% double dose vaccination target will involve moving more commercial activities outside to help slow COVID case numbers. This will include encouraging more retail shopping in laneways and fitness classes in parks.
Based on the overwhelming success of last Summer’s Outdoor Dining program, the Victorian Government is considering providing additional funding to councils and businesses to encourage more outside activities, with more details to be released soon.
As for the final phase of the Roadmap, Premier Andrews said the government would wait for more details to be developed as part of the National Plan to move beyond 80% double dose vaccination rates.
How brokers can help
Cameron Poolman, CEO of OnDeck, is pleased that the Victorian government’s roadmap will provide some blue-sky for small businesses in Victoria that have been forced to ride out hundreds of days of lockdowns over the past 18 months.
“While Victoria will have more freedoms once the state hits the 70% double vaccination target, in the meantime, I’d be urging all brokers to help their clients stay up to date with the government financial assistance on offer.”
Financial support for Victorian businesses will continue. This support extends to businesses in regional local government areas in lockdown who are eligible to receive support from the Business Costs Assistance Program[i] and Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund payments[ii] for the last two weeks of September – along with more than 100,000 metropolitan businesses. In recognition of ongoing patron and density limits, Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund payments will be made across the state for the period 17-30 September, regardless of location.
Details about Victorian business support payments are available here.
“Brokers should remind their clients that fast, efficient funding is also available through OnDeck to assist them with cash flow – or to seize opportunities that may arise if they are permitted to take their operations outside to laneways or parks,” Cameron Poolman added.
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