Retailers welcome the announcement to change close contact isolation rules in Victoria and NSW this weekend.
National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb says the impact of isolation rules has been devastating for the retail and hospitality workforce, who have been hit with ongoing labour shortages as employees are forced into isolation regardless of a negative test result.
“Isolation rules have been critical in reducing the severity of infection rates, but as vaccination rates peak, close contacts who are vaccinated should be able to continue to work, or we will continually have large numbers of people out of the workforce,” Ms Lamb said.
“Small businesses are losing massive chunks of revenue as their employees are unable to work. This is causing our economy to fall behind other developed countries that are prospering from an active workforce.
“In the past two years, we have mitigated the risks as much as possible, at times to the detriment of the retail and hospitality workforce.
“Other industries are exempt from close contact isolation rules to ensure essential services can continue. This needs to be extended to the rest of the workforce to allow people who cannot work from home to return to work following a negative test result,” Ms Lamb said.
Ms Lamb says we should not become complacent with managing the health risks of Covid, but it makes sense to change the rules as we enter a new phase of living with the virus.
“It is apparent the effects of Covid are much less severe than what they were a year ago and to what they will be in a year’s time.
“Just as the decision was made to open our borders and scrap vaccine mandates, we need the strength of our leadership to take another leap of faith in this direction.
“It’s time to move forward and get healthy people back to work.”
The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has welcomed the alignment of Covid protocols from the NSW and Victorian Governments, with the removal of close contact isolation requirements an enormous relief for businesses severely impacted by staff shortages.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra says it’s pleasing to see the two largest states working together and leading what should be the national approach for living with Covid.
“Close contact isolation rules are well past their use-by date given we’re one of the most vaccinated countries in the world. It doesn’t make sense to force healthy people to stay at home when they show no symptoms of Covid and test negative. The removal of these isolation requirements in NSW and Victoria is an important step on the path towards living with Covid and is an example for the other jurisdictions to follow,” Mr Zahra said.
“Staff shortages due to Covid isolations have been an enormous frustration for small businesses in particular, with 48% of ARA Members saying the situation had gotten worse in the past month. Some have had to alter their trading hours or close some locations altogether because they haven’t been able to get people to fill shifts at the last minute.
“Pleasingly, with the announcements from NSW and Victoria today, we’ll be able to get more people back working subject to regular testing requirements. This is an enormous relief for businesses that haven’t been able to trade at their full potential.
“Masks have been the other frustration for retailers, particularly in Victoria where they’ve been mandatory for retail staff. It’s pleasing to see these requirements lifted, along with vaccine checks in hospitality venues, which will further assist Victoria’s economic recovery.
“We’re one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, and into the third year of this pandemic. The days of overzealous Covid rules are over.”