One thing has become clear over the past two weeks or so. COVID is back! And it is having a very different impact on our community compared to last year. Sure, we are dealing with a variant that is more contagious than the previous one, but the big difference is that everyone seems angrier, more frustrated, and more anxious than before.
Last year’s theme of us all being “in this together” (which was supported by sentimental TV adverts calling for national unity) has been replaced by an endless stream of news segments dominated by politicians blaming each other for failures in international quarantine, the slow vaccination roll-out, inconsistent border restrictions, and premature lockdowns of communities by State and Territory Governments. Or is that lockdowns being implemented too late?
“The big difference with the current COVID challenge is not that the delta variant. The big difference is we have lost that collective sense of national collaboration that got us through last year”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.
“The early signs suggest this outbreak is going to be harder on our communities and our businesses than last year. In the fuel industry, fuel sales are again down but the silver lining that came last year in the form of increased convenience store sales has not eventuated as yet”, added Mark.
The other big issue is that more service stations have been identified as COVID exposure sites in NSW and Victoria over the last 4 weeks, than occurred during all of last year. This is despite our businesses complying with the same COVID-safe business protocols as before.
“It is fair to say that this particular outbreak has everyone worried in our industry and so it is vital that we all pull together to deal with it”, said Mark.
The current state/federal government bickering isn’t helping anyone.
Yes, we all need to vaccinate. In hindsight we should have done that faster, but then everyone is smarter in hindsight. If we were honest, the vast majority of Australian’s largely believed the major COVID threat had passed in Australia and we were hardly all rushing off to get vaccinated earlier this year.
But while rapid vaccination will help to reduce the risk of future lockdowns, it won’t solve the immediate issue. We need to focus on the strategies that will bring the immediate risk under control.
Like it or lump it, the current lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne are part of the solution and that is particularly the case when they are accompanied by meaningful financial assistance for affected business and employees – as is now in place.
But the other issue we need to watch closely is the apparently rising level of business owner and community anxiety. Politicians fighting with each other, or business groups slinging mud at governments, does not build community confidence that we will get on top of this any time soon. It just increases anxiety levels.
Each of us have an important role to play in helping ourselves (and others) to get through the current crisis. In our industry that means doing three things, namely:
- Being familiar with the changing COVID restrictions and taking all reasonable additional precautions to make our workplaces and customer environments safe.
- Being aware of aware and accessing the financial assistance that is being made available by various Australian governments to keep our businesses strong – and helping our employees to do the same.
- Supporting each other at a time of heightened anxiety.
ACAPMA is working hard to ensure that all of our members – and indeed the entire industry – is supported with all necessary information as it becomes available. This is primarily being done via the distribution of ACAPMA’s COVID-19 Roundups that are regularly emailed to all members.
In the meantime, information about the current COVID restrictions and financial assistance programs that are operating in each Australian State and Territory can be accessed via the links provided below:
New South Wales
The current outbreak has also resulted in changes to border restrictions which are particularly important for fuel distributors. A summary of the current rules, which include introduction of a compulsory three-day driver testing regime for drivers entering Victoria, is provided in the following link: https://www.nhvr.gov.au/about-us/coronavirus-response.
“It is fair to say that this is a challenging time but, contrary to much of the news being reported, Australian governments are working cooperatively with industry associations like ACAPMA to provide all necessary information on restrictions and to address issues as they arise”, said Mark.
“The best antidote for anxiety is information. Distribution of information will continue to be our primary focus during this current outbreak”, concluded Mark.
ACAPMA members are strongly encouraged to keep an eye out for the regular COVID-19 Roundups. If issues arise that are not covered by these updates, members should contact the ACAPMA Secretariat by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the Secretariat on 1300 160 270.