Tuesday, 29 September 2020
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Disappointment at continued restrictions

Local business owners said the Covid roadmap announced on Sunday “was not the ideal outcome”, with many hoping for greater easing of restrictions.

However Cr Pam Rothfield said she agreed with the government’s approach.

“It didn’t surprise me. If you keep close tabs on the numbers, it’s still too early to open up.”

She said although Bass Coast was lucky and in a good place, she understood the reluctance to open regional areas broadly.

“You just have to take a situation like Colac,” Cr Rothfield said.

“They had one case, which jumped to 24 in three days. I understand the reluctance to open up too wide too soon.”

But one local business owner who wished to remain anonymous said they were “gutted” at the decision and it would take time to get their head around what it all meant. They believe a number of local businesses on the island wouldn’t make it through with the prolonged closures.

Geoff Moed, from A Maze'N Things said from a tourism perspective the continued lockdown for Melbourne during school holidays was particularly devastating.

“Melbourne is our main market, plus the other markets (international and interstate) are not there. And there’s no regional travel either.”

He said the number of empty shops down the main street – “I’ve counted at least 10” – was indicative of the way things are heading.

“JobKeeper is keeping a lot of people going, but I’ve noticed over the last couple of weeks that there’s a lot more psychological stress – from workers and business owners. And JobKeeper is inequitable. Some people are making more money than usual, while others are working harder for the same amount of money. People are feeling hard done by and very anxious.”

He said the focus now had to be on getting through to November.

“Once the main effects of virus elimination are in place, business can be strong again. But a lot of people won’t make it to that point with no income.”

He said tourism businesses like his did not have the option to reinvent themselves or change their business model.

“We’ve had to close completely – we can’t do other things.”

For now, he’s focused on November.

“Hopefully the restrictions get lifted by then, so we can have a successful trading season.”

Geoff believes once things open up, Phillip Island should do well.

“People can’t go overseas and many want to travel close to home,” he said, which made the island the ideal destination.

Cr Rothfield agrees Phillip Island is well placed to take advantage of the new “Covid normal”.

“The latest information is that nature-based tourism is the leading driver for tourism, seconded only by safe tourism – places where people can confidently go and not contract the virus. We can provide both and we’ll be able to open up for that peak period if everything continues the way it is.”

Even if the roadmap works and the island’s business are reopened for summer, Geoff believes the empty shops in Cowes will remain.

“There will be a lot of people who would normally be coming in to start a business, or those who started a new business but now can’t maintain them. I was around in 1991 for the last recession. And this time, things will be a lot worse financially.”