MEMBER for Murray Plains Peter Walsh says the Victorian Government's sudden backflip on coronavirus restrictions has blindsided restaurants, cafes, hotels and bars that had planned to reopen to up to 50 diners.
“Coronavirus shutdowns have smashed our local businesses, many of which have been forced to lay off staff and keep their doors closed for months,” Mr Walsh said.
“It’s hard enough in the COVID climate for a business to function, but in river towns such as Echuca, people can simply drive for two minutes, cross the river into NSW and be one of 50 in a room — this poor decision is really hurting country towns that have been starved of cash flow for months.
“And there has hardly been a case of coronavirus anywhere in the whole electorate and in Campaspe Shire there is only one active case which was not contracted locally.”
Mr Walsh said the Victorian Government had been quick to consider strict lock-downs to high risk suburbs in Melbourne, but this should go both ways by allowing our regional businesses in communities where there few cases – if any – to safely return to business as normal.
He believed the decision to push out the work-from-home order to July 31 was also causing frustration for country people.
“Daniel Andrews’s blanket ban on all Victorians going back to the workplace unfairly disadvantages regional communities, particularly those that have never recorded a positive case of COVID-19,” he said.
The Victorian Government has stood by its decision, with safety being its first priority.
“We know the restrictions have been difficult for all Victorians, with hospitality businesses doing it especially tough — but our case numbers are the highest they’ve been in more than two months,” a government spokesperson said.
“To keep Victorians safe, the Chief Health Officer’s advice is to delay an increase to gathering limits in businesses and community facilities.
“We understand Victorians are frustrated, but we can’t let this get away from us. We must act while we can.”
As Nationals leader and Shadow Regional Victoria and Decentralisation Minister, Mr Walsh said Mr Andrews was constantly shifting the goal posts at the cost of local jobs.
“Many regional towns have never recorded a single positive coronavirus case, but Daniel Andrews has dragged us back into lock-down because of outbreaks in Melbourne,” Mr Walsh said.
“Daniel Andrews sent the message that it’s okay to break the rules when he allowed 10,000 protesters to meet in Melbourne’s CBD a few weeks ago — in direct breach of social distancing rules.
“He needs to explain why his mismanagement of coronavirus should cost country Victorians’ jobs.”