The lockdown in Sydney will be extended by at least another week, as the city’s total virus cluster grew by another 27 overnight.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the extension on Wednesday morning, though media reports about the lockdown extension were published hours earlier.
“What we want to do is give our best chance of making sure this is the only lockdown we have until the vast majority of our citizens are vaccinated,” Berejiklian said.
“We appreciate and understand the stress this means for individuals, for families and, of course, businesses.”
And, despite frustrations over the state’s ‘lockdown lite’ – in which very few hard rules are in place and any business that considers itself essential can remain open, furthering the potential for contamination – the Premier did little to make sweeping changes.
She did hint at a potentially staggered exit to the lockdown, however. Berejiklian noted that the Government would, in the next few days, offer up information on what the state will look like when exiting lockdown, and what it will look like in the weeks following that exit.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said that she understands Berejiklian doesn’t make these decisions lightly, but that it will come at a big cost to business.
“I think the Premier has made it very clear that the extension is about make sure that we don’t have to do this again,” Westacott said.
“Obviously, it’s an absolute imperative then that we get this vaccine rolling out as fast as possible.”
A $3 billion blow
Australian Retailers Association boss Paul Zahra said the extension is a bitter blow for businesses, given the impact the lockdown is having on businesses without the JobKeeper safety net.
“This lockdown is now set to cost around $3 billion in lost retail trade, which is just not sustainable without adequate support measures in place for businesses and their staff,” Zahra said.
“Whilst we are grateful for the business support grants and payroll tax deferrals from the NSW Government, this doesn’t go far enough to compensate the downturn businesses will suffer during a three-week lockdown.
When asked about potential business support efforts, Berejiklian said the state government has reached out to the federal treasurer on the matter, according to the ABC.
“If we need too do more we will,” she said.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, however, said that he had been asked to reinstate JobKeeper – something he isn’t willing to do.
“[We are] not bringing back JobKeeper,” Frydenberg said, according to the ABC.
“We, that was an emergency support payment that we introduced at the height of the pandemic.
“[NSW Treasurer] Dominic Perrottet it announced up to $10,000 payments for businesses and I note the Premier today has said they will give further consideration as to what additional economic support but we aren’t about to bring back JobKeeper.”
More to come.