In the space of just four days the expected hit to Australian retail from various lockdowns has risen by $1 billion, with the country's national peak retail body calling on more support from Canberra.
The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) estimates more than $8 billion of retail trade is now at risk due to lockdowns in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.
The news comes as South Australia prepares to enter a snap, seven-day lockdown due to a cluster that has since grown to five. Victoria, meanwhile, has extended its lockdown by a week.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra has called for "adequate support measures" from the Federal Government to help struggling businesses.
"With the Delta variant becoming incredibly difficult to contain, it's clear that lockdowns are going to be an ongoing feature for the rest of this year when it comes to managing new outbreaks in the community," Zahra says.
"With that being the case, it's clear we need the return of an effective support scheme like JobKeeper to ensure businesses can stay afloat and connected to their employees."
He says whilst existing Federal COVID disaster payments are certainly welcomed, they fall short of liveable income and the arrangements that were in place under the first phase of JobKeeper.
"This, along with the Leasing Code of Conduct, were major factors keeping businesses alive through the initial phase of the pandemic," he says.
The ARA executive believes a nationally coordinated strategy is the answer.
"The ARA is repeating its calls for a nationally consistent approach to Covid lockdowns and restrictions. There is still no national definition on what is included in 'essential' retail," he explains.
"It differs from state to state and is an absolute nightmare for businesses with a national footprint whose stores are affected in different ways depending on what city they're in.
"This once again highlights how important it is to expediate Australia's COVID vaccination program and the retail community stands ready to support this effort in any way it can. Vaccines are the only way we'll see an end to these sorts of lockdowns and restrictions that are so damaging to businesses and livelihoods."
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