Health small business | July 03, 2020

Time has come to ease restrictions in country areas: Kealy

While restrictions tighten in metropolitan coronavirus “hotspots”, Member for Lowan Emma Kealy is calling for restrictions to be eased in country areas where no cases exist, including Lowan.

Ms Kealy has received numerous enquiries from business owners, frustrated that people in rural areas with no active cases are still facing heightened restrictions.

“While I understand the concerns some people have about easing restrictions, this is all about getting the balance right, and the reality is many local businesses are going to the wall because the current restrictions do not allow our local residents to support Lowan businesses,” she said.

“The Andrews Labor Government increased restrictions across the state about two weeks ago because case numbers started to surge in Melbourne. Daniel Andrews has since enforced new restrictions specific to Melbourne’s hotspots, but hasn’t recognised the need for new targeted restrictions for communities at the other end of the scale.

“Despite the fact people in rural areas have done the right thing and kept their communities COVID-free, their businesses and livelihoods are still paying the price for their city cousins’ complacency. This needs to change.”

Ms Kealy said border communities such as Kaniva, Edenhope and Casterton had been hit with a double-whammy – not being able to operate businesses because of the Victorian restrictions, and unable to access essential services across the border because of South Australian restrictions.

Ms Kealy said the Liberal Nationals had been working with the South Australian Government and South Australian Premier Steven Marshall over the past two weeks to work through issues for people living in border communities.

She said it was time Premier Daniel Andrews also showed consideration for border community residents, and residents in rural areas more widely.

“If our Premier can't recognise the need for a different approach to restrictions for Victorians in rural and regional areas, it’s a little difficult to expect the South Australian Government to tailor their restrictions for these communities,” she said.

“Businesses on both sides of the invisible line that is the border must be supported while the risk of coronavirus exposure is extremely low, and we need to support people who live near to the border to continue to access shops and essential services and get on with their lives.”

Ms Kealy said she believed a balance between supporting local businesses without compromising health outcomes could be achieved with continued strong enforcement of social distancing and personal hygiene.
“Health risks need to be considered alongside economic ones. The virus has taken lives, but so too will the economic hardship from a mental health perspective as people go broke,” she said.

“Allowing our businesses to open up to 50 people, as was intended to occur a fortnight ago, will get locals back to work and kick-start our economy.

“We need to be able to support the hospitality sectors in our own towns – our pubs, clubs and restaurants – who cannot be viable with the current 20-patron limit, as they simply cannot open their doors without losing money.

“I am calling on Daniel Andrews to ease restrictions in country areas to safely return local businesses to operating as normal, so our communities and economies can get back on track.”

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