Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce
Wednesday 6 October 2021

Businesses across NSW are now eagerly anticipating the easing of restrictions in early October when the 70% vaccination threshold is achieved.  This will be the beginning of the NSW roadmap to a recovery and hopefully a signal that debilitating lockdowns are a thing of the past.

Tourism and hospitality has been affected very badly and the easing of restrictions is now sorely needed to allow this industry to begin its recovery.  It is very important that Port Macquarie tourism and hospitality businesses are able to welcome back visitors from metropolitan areas initially followed by interstate guests and ultimately international travellers.

At this point there remains a great deal of uncertainty around the vaccine passport system and how that might be implemented and enforced by hospitality traders still in recovery mode.  Many will be reluctant to refuse entry to unvaccinated patrons unless there are clear guidelines in place.  It will become difficult to manage entry when there may be a variety of individual circumstances to consider.

The NSW Government has lead all states in providing a roadmap to recovery but vaccines passports are clearly uncharted territory that delves into individuals rights set against those of the business operator to refuse entry on their terms.  It has already been hinted that pilot schemes or trials may well be run to assess and iron out some of the problems.  Former Deputy Premier, John Barilaro had sensibly suggested that these could be conducted in regional areas where the risks are lower and it is likely to be easier to manage numbers.

The extended lockdown in Sydney due to the Delta strain of Covid has clearly demonstrated that this virus is here for some time in one form or another and we need to learn to live with it without constantly closing down our business community.  The logical and almost unanimous conclusion by governments now is that vaccination of the majority of the population is the only realistic long term solution.

The original reasons given for the lockdowns in early 2020 were to suppress the virus spread and give health services time to prepare for higher caseloads.  Some 18 months on it is now expected that health services have indeed increased their capacity and gained significant experience in dealing with the virus.  With a likely vaccination rate of above 80% being achieved well before Christmas this year a complete opening up of the economy should be achieved seamlessly and safely without the need for further lockdowns.

Governments also have an ongoing responsibility to continue providing support for businesses who are recovering from being forceably and repeatedly shutdown since March 2020.  Many small businesses have suffered immeasurable damage and their recovery is going to be long and arduous.  In some circumstances tailored support for small business and affected industry groups may well be needed for some time to come.

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