COVID-19 restrictions hit businesses hard ahead of New Years Eve as SA tackles spread of Omicron

South Australia’s leading trade body said it has approached the state government for financial support for the hospitality industry, as instant restrictions are reimposed to contain the spread of the Omicron variant.

The SA yesterday recorded 774 new cases of COVID-19 – its highest daily tally in the pandemic, and 81% of which is Omicron – prompting authorities to reintroduce strict density limits in reception places, gyms and home gatherings before New Years celebrations.

From today, the density limits for cafes and restaurants will be reduced by 75 to 25%, or one person per 4 square meters.

“Public health and social measures must give us time,” said Nicola Spurrier, SA’s public health manager, on Sunday.

Prime Minister Steven Marshall this morning rejected suggestions that the “panic button” had been hit and continued to insist that a lockdown was not on the agenda.

“I don’t think a lockdown is likely. It was certainly Professor Spurrier’s recommendation yesterday to the Police Commissioner,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.

Professor Spurrier brought up the idea of ​​closing borders from the early days of Omicron.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

Mr Marshall defended the decision to reopen the state’s eastern borders on November 23, saying the rapid spread of the Omicron variant had been unpredictable.

He was also asked about a meeting of health officials several weeks ago where Professor Spurrier raised the idea of ​​closing state borders during the cross-state Omicron outbreaks.

“When there was a steering committee, people came from different positions,” he said.

“But there was a consensus decision… that it wouldn’t be appropriate at that point. Hindsight is a good thing.

“We could have said, ‘Well look, we’re going to keep it closed on the 23rd,’ if we had a crystal ball and we knew something was going to happen that the world hadn’t even heard of yet.”

Peak Body Business SA president Nikki Govan said she was baffled by the news of a return to enhanced social distancing measures.

“It’s our busiest week of the year.”

Nikki Govan is president of SA's leading business lobby group, Business SA.
Nikki Govan said compensation should target companies that need it the most.(SA company)

Ms Govan said the government should consider targeted support for businesses that would be hardest hit.

“Certainly, Business SA has presented a dossier to the government. We understand that the treasurer and the prime minister are thinking about it,” she said.

“The hospitality industry and gyms are paying the price for these restrictions and we think it is very appropriate that the State Chamber of Commerce appeal to the government.

“They’ve been reluctant to support just industry sectors, but they’ve done it cross-state and we think it’s really important to look at the companies that are affected and seek some kind of support for them. . “

Pub closes in uncertainty

These calls were taken up by the SA branch of the Australian Hotels Association.

“It is essential that the state government provide significant financial support to reflect the real cost – to employees, the loss of income. [and] loss of work, huge costs for companies that cannot be recouped for food that would have been ordered, for musicians, for technicians – before New Years Eve functions, ”said Managing Director Ian Horne.

Mr Horne also wants the South African government to provide hotel workers with free rapid antigen tests.

“This is what is going to help us preserve our industry so that we don’t lose hundreds and potentially thousands of workers in the vortex of having to be tested and isolated for days,” he said.

“The hospitality industry should be a priority, and the government should access these supplies and provide them to every hotel operation in the state.”

Adelaide publican Simone Douglas.
Simone Douglas was forced to close the doors of the Duke of Brunswick.(ABC News: Patrick Martin)

Adelaide CBD publicist Simone Douglas said she was forced to shut down the Duke of Brunswick indefinitely due to the new density limits.

“It’s really another death by press conference. I was working yesterday and the pub was a ghost town,” she said.

“The industry is exhausted, we’re all tired of being spin-fed, things like ‘We are increasing the capacity of the system, roll up your sleeves in South Australia and get vaccinated.’ That’s great, we are on it. let’s all do. “

Mr Marshall told 5AA radio he had previously discussed support options.

“Yesterday I met with Treasury officials on what we could do to provide support, as we have done throughout the process,” he said.

“But we can’t have a hard, fast plan with a disease that keeps changing.

“I understand this is very frustrating.”

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