Victoria’s economy-crippling stage four coronavirus restrictions should be reviewed within weeks to see of large retailers can open up, Wesfarmers says.
Weeks of stay-home restrictions and compulsory mask-wearing directives have failed to stem the spread of the deadly virus in the state, forcing the government to introduce a harsher lockdown this week.
Among the restrictions, retail outside of supermarkets, grocery stores and bottle shops will have to close to online shopping only.
“There’s an opportunity in a very measured, risk-based way, that we review this over the coming weeks as the New Zealand government did as they worked through their lockdown,” Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott told Radio National on Tuesday.
He said the company’s large-format stores such as Bunnings and Officeworks were better placed to have customers in store because they could spread out.
“I’m hopeful that in the coming weeks as we start to see the demand coming from coming from households and families for additional products and as we as we try and reduce the devastating toll this is going to place on household budgets that we can find a way to keep product flowing in a safe way,” Mr Scott said.
Wesfarmers has about 25,000 retail workers in Victoria and some will be diverted to work in click-and-collect but others face being stood down.
Mr Scott said Wesfarmers had two weeks pay in place for such workers but after that the workers would need to look at government subsidies.
Victoria’s stage four lockdown is expected to run until at least September 13 – six weeks away – and about 250,000 more people will be out of work as a result.
Jobs Minister Martin Pakula said if modifications could be made that did not risk public health, he was “happy to have a conversation.”
Mr Pakula told 3AW radio on Tuesday a hotline for industry took 5000 queries on Monday night after the latest restrictions were announced.
The Victorian government has created grants of $5000 for regional businesses and $10,000 for those in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire to cope with the tougher restrictions.
However, these are not available to sole traders.
Mr Pakula said the state had to draw a line for support for budgetary reasons and sole traders would need to rely on federal assistance.