Sweeping changes for Victorian retail and construction, more cash grants on offer

Sweeping changes for Victorian retail and construction, more cash grants on offer

Retail will look more "different than it has ever looked" before and work on construction sites will be slowed to a crawl under extensive new restrictions to be imposed on Victorian businesses.

From 11:59pm on Wednesday many businesses will be forced to shut and retailers will have to adapt to a new non-contact reality, while later in the week major industries will be wound down to bare minimum staffing levels.

Industries like meatworks will slow production by a third, and the construction sector will be put on "pilot light" levels of activity, keeping the flame of Victoria's economy burning until Stage 4 restrictions are eased.

Cash grants of $5,000 will be available to businesses in Melbourne for the second time during the second wave, while the same sum will be made available for the first time for regional victorians entering stage 3 later this week.

Read more: State of Disaster: Melbourne enters Stage 4 lockdown

Businesses deemed "essential" in the state will remain open during the six-week Stage 4 lockdown period and include:

  • Supermarkets
  • Grocery stores
  • Bottle shops
  • Pharmacies
  • Petrol stations
  • Banks
  • News agencies
  • Post office

In addition, all facilities that form the state's front line effort against COVID-19 will remain open and operational including health facilities.

Non-essential retailers will face a change like nothing yet seen in this pandemic, with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announcing they will either have to close or move to a completely non-contact method of operation by 11:59pm on Wednesday.

For example, Andrews says Melburnians will no longer be able to go into a store like Bunnings but will be able to collect goods without making contact via drive thru arrangements.

Home delivery will also be allowed to continue for retailers with that capability.

"Retail will look very different than it has ever looked," says Andrews.

"But unless we have literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people at home and not going to work, so hundreds of thousands less movements around the community each and every day, then we will not pull this virus up."

Meatworks and construction sectors slowed down

The third category of businesses impacted by Stage 4 are those that will be permitted to operate but under significantly different conditions.

These businesses, including those in the meatworks and the construction sectors, will have until 11:59pm on Friday 7 August to enact a COVIDSafe plan focused on safety, prevention and response in the event that coronavirus is linked to the workplace.

These plans will include mandated reductions to the number of workers on site; for example, in the meat industry the workforce will be scaled back by two thirds.

Warehousing and distribution centres in Melbourne will be limited to no more than two-thirds the normal workforce allowed onsite at any one time.

The construction sector, described by Andrews as "the lifeblood of the Victorian economy", will move to "pilot light" levels of activity.

For major constructions sites, this means no more than 25 per cent of the normal workforce can be on site, while small scale construction will be limited to a maximum of five people on site.

"To date, we've almost halved the number of people onsite on some of our biggest Government projects. Now we're going to go through project by project, line by line to make sure they are reduced to the practical minimum number of workers," says Andrews.

"These workplaces that are continuing to operate will also have additional requirements including extra PPE, staggering shifts, staggering breaks, health declarations and more support for sick workers to ensure they stay home.

"To give one example, workers in abattoirs will be kitted out in full PPE gowns, masks and shields more akin to what a nurse would wear. They'll also be subject to routine testing."

Stage 4 will "make a huge difference"

According to Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton these restrictions at Stage 4 are limiting, but are necessary to bring down the number of new COVID-19 infections in the state.

"We should reflect on the fact that Stage 3 restrictions did make a difference, they genuinely flattened the curve but they flattened the curve to a point where we got to a plateau of 400-500 cases every day," says Sutton.

"That would've continued indefinitely because if you're really only driving transmission down to a level where one person infects one other individual then you've got 400 or 500 cases every day ongoing.

"We'll see a reduction in the numbers week on week as long as people are following the directions that have been laid out. Obviously, there are some constraints that have been set in stone...they will make a huge difference."

The new announcements come as Victoria records 429 new cases of COVID-19 today and 13 new deaths.

There are now 6,489 active cases across the state including 386 in regional Victoria.

Of the active cases 416 are in hospital and 35 are in intensive care.

Updated at 4:42pm AEST on 3 August 2020.

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