In an Open Letter to the Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, the business community, including ACAPMA, has called for clear and hard opening dates now. That is, the Victorian economy and the social fabric of metropolitan Melbourne are irrevocably damaged. With no vaccine in sight and case numbers under control, it is time for Victoria to join the rest of Australia (and indeed the world) in implementing the proven tools to safely and responsibly open for business.

Numerous other Australian and international jurisdictions have proven that the economy can function without jeopardising health. It is well past time that the Victorian Premier recognise that we must adapt to living with the virus in a way that is economically and socially sustainable.

Further, there is an emerging consensus of internationally renowned epidemiologists and medical professionals that the longer term impact on community mortality rates of severe social lockdowns are likely to exceed the number of deaths caused by COVID19 itself (See https://gbdeclaration.org/) . That is, the health impacts of the community lockdown ‘cure’ are worse than the ‘disease’.

The Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA), is the national peak body representing the interests of small business. ACAPMA, and many other industry associations, are members of COSBOA, which is chaired by our own CEO Mark McKenzie. Collectively, COSBOA’s members represent an estimated 1.3 million of the 2.5 million small and family businesses that operate in Australia – around 30% of which operate in the state of Victoria.

In the Letter to the Victorian Premier this week, COSBOA stated that “The current situation cannot be endured any longer. Businesses need a hard reopening date” and it needs to be now, before those businesses that have been “holding on by their fingernails” are forced to close permanently.

The Letter goes on to highlight that further extending the current Melbourne lockdowns beyond 19 October 2020 will exacerbate the current downturn and “create a cycle of poverty and unemployment…that will take many years to overcome and will mainly affect the most disadvantaged”.

Without immediate easing of restrictions whole industries in Victoria will die off and talent will relocate; “Entertainment businesses will cease to exist, and Victorian artists and entertainers will need to relocate permanently to other states…Sectors such as hair and beauty will have no choice but to shut shop”, the letter states.

The Letter outlines that this call is not one that ignores the health imperatives. Rather that it is time for the Premier to look up and forward, and to recognise that COVID-19 will be a feature of the world for the next 12-18 months. It is time to support and encourage an economy (and social system) that can operate despite the risk and challenge that COVID-19 poses and that a focus on zero COVID-19 cases – at the expense of the Victorian economy and the wellbeing of the residents – is a case of perverse diminishing returns.

The letter goes on to state that “Severe economic and social harm will come from chasing the marginal reduction in health risk that comes with further extensions of the lockdown of Melbourne – to say nothing of the harm that has already been caused in this regard.”

The Letter reminds the Premier that small business supported the second lockdowns in the face of exponential cases and a deficient contact tracing scheme, however it is time for that lockdown to go. “After more than 100 days, the lockdown has significantly reduced infections, case numbers have stabilised at a low level, and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has been given more than enough time to introduce rigorous contact tracing”, COSBOA says

“It is now time for Victoria to reopen”

COSBOA concluded its’ letter by suggesting that “Victorians must be allowed to live (and do business) with the virus instead of being locked away in their homes.”

The Victorian Premier now has a choice. To continue to chase zero cases knowing of the very significant economic and social collateral damage. Or to re-open metropolitan Melbourne using proven safety protocols and effective contact tracing, in partnership with Victorian business and industry.

ACAPMA stands with COSBOA in supporting the latter choice for an immediate and responsible reopening of the Victorian economy now.

A copy of COSBOA’s Open Letter to the Victorian Premier can be downloaded at: https://www.cosboa.org.au/post/an-open-letter-to-premier-dan-andrews

ACAPMA