Victoria is crawling out of lockdown, a peak economic group says, while Melbourne businesses such as gyms remain at a dead stop.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed Wednesday’s announcement that restrictions throughout the state would ease as of 23.59 on Thursday night, but the relaxation of rules falls short of what the body had hoped for.
Melbourne gyms, for example, will remain shut because of the risk of virus transmission, while those in regional areas can reopen.
“Today’s news is good, but it’s not the snapback we were hoping for; we went fast in, but we are crawling out,” Chamber chief executive Paul Guerra said.
“We need to see further easing of restrictions to enable all businesses to get back to viable trade as soon as possible to keep jobs, businesses, livelihoods, culture and prosperity alive in Victoria.”
While businesses such as gyms, nightclubs and dance studios will remain shut in Melbourne, they will be eligible for $2000 state government support grants.
“The additional government support is welcome and will help some businesses, and the eased restrictions will enable many to open,” Tim Piper, the Victorian head of national employer association the Ai group, said.
“However, turning a profit for those in the services sector will remain extremely difficult.
“With the severe restrictions on numbers in offices, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas and at events, the Victorian economy will remain under great stress.”
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said it remains took risky to let Melbourne gyms reopen, saying he recalled 27 cases at one fitness centre.
“The combination of indoor settings, closed environments, people exerting themselves – it really has significant opportunity to spread,” Professor Sutton said.
“I am asking gyms to make that sacrifice for a further week as we assess the epidemiology.”
But State Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien and Chapel St Precinct general manager Chrissie Maus are unimpressed.
“On what planet is it safe to go and get a tatt but you can’t go and do a workout,” Mr O’Brien asked reporters on Wednesday.
“(The restrictions) are not consistent.”
Ms Maus said the ongoing closure of Melbourne gyms would exacerbate the mental health challenges facing the city’s residents.
“I find it extraordinary that you can go for a parma ‘n’ pot before you can step foot inside a health and fitness facility,” she said.
“The fitness sector has led the way with outstanding hygiene standards and gone above and beyond to ensure the safety of their clients.”
The Victorian Tourism Industry Council was encouraged by Wednesday’s announcements, despite the ongoing ban on travel out of Melbourne into regional areas.
“The restrictions announced today for metropolitan Melbourne, and the further easing of restrictions in regional Victoria are cautious, but thankfully not as severe as was anticipated from past experiences,” said chief executive Felicia Mariani.