Australia’s struggling hospitality and service industries are being “hammered”, sparking desperate calls for government support.
Businesses across NSW and Victoria are “bleeding cash” as hundreds of thousands of customers and workers are forced into isolation from Covid-19 or being a close contact.
Others are struggling to access testing.
In extreme circumstances, some residents are even refusing to leave the house other than when absolutely necessary in a self-imposed lockdown over fears of catching the virus.
The hospitality sector has warned some businesses won’t be able to hold on much longer under current conditions.
The NSW Government on Sunday revealed new isolation exemptions for “critical workers” in the food and cleaning industry, where they can skip close contact isolation if they test negative to Covid-19 and are not showing any symptoms.
After supermarkets had once again been stripped bare of many essential items due to supply chain issues, workers delivering products can now go to work despite possibly having the virus.
Following Sunday’s announcement Restaurants and Catering Industry Association chief executive Wes Lambert immediately contacted the state government urging it to extend the rules for the hospitality sector.
“Ultimately, while they have acknowledged the receipt of the request, they continue to consult and monitor and hopefully they will see what we see,” Mr Lambert told The Daily Telegraph.
“The hospitality industry is continuing to be hammered as consumer spending plummets.”
Mr Lambert said customers have been conditioned to “worry about case numbers” for almost two years.
He called on federal and state governments to work together to solve critical staff shortage problems.
“It is important that the government recognises consumers are voting with their feet and the hospitality industry will continue to need government support until consumer confidence returns,” he said.
Many restaurants, pubs and cafes, have been forced to temporarily close, reduce opening hours or operate at restricted capacity because staff cannot physically get to work.
Restaurant owner David Bitton said the current conditions were “worse than lockdown” as Sydneysiders were eating more takeaway and businesses had government supports in the form of Jobseeker and Jobsaver.
“I can’t run (my restaurants) at night because I have no staff,” he said.
“No one is coming out, no one is going to restaurants, no one wants to catch Covid. Everyone has pressed the panic button. We are just bleeding cash.”
The Victorian service industry is also crying out for help, with many threatening closure due to the current conditions.
Chief Executive of the Aesthetic Beauty Industry Council, Stefanie Milla said businesses are struggling to run due to a lack of staff, and echoes the message the current situation is worse than lockdown.
“You’ve got a staff member … away for four or five days trying to get access to a rapid antigen test,” Ms Milla told 3AW.
“All the while, they’re actually Covid negative but can’t come into work.”
While businesses received grants during lockdown, Ms Milla said there has been no support in the current Covid-wave and is calling for government assistance.
“Half the time it’s not even sick leave, it’s just precautionary leave waiting for test results and we would like some kind of grant, or some kind of assistance proportionate to the amount of revenue that we’ve lost,” Ms Milla said.