Restrictions ease, but business hurts

Premier Mark McGowan announces the first easing of restrictions from midnight on March 31.

FREMANTLE council will write to premier Mark McGowan letting him know the outcome of a special electors meeting which called on him to revoke WA’s state of emergency declaration.

At the meeting earlier this month, 83 electors voted in favour of a six-part motion which included the adoption of a “Covid-19 Vaccination Pro-Choice Statement” and redeployment or reinstatement of any staff forced out of their jobs because of their vaccination status.

But while the council will let Mr McGowan know the outcome, the report will be heavy with its own take: “Not in support” officers declared to five parts of the motion.

Their only concession was to accept an advocacy role, hence the letter to the premier.

Cr Andrew Sullivan put forward an amendment suggesting the premier review the rules around vaccine exemptions.

“At the last meeting and pretty well the whole way through probably the last six months, I have genuinely felt that there is a small part of our community that is getting left behind,” Cr Sullivan said.

Exemptions

“I have, frankly, heard many examples from people where exemptions have been denied in situations where I would have said … that person clearly has a level of anxiety or mental health concern that really shouldn’t just be fobbed off the way it is.”

However his motion didn’t get support and lapsed.

A day after the meeting Mr McGowan announced the easing of some of WA’s Covid restrictions from April Fool’s Day as WA’s Covid wave nears it peak, though proof of vaccine certificates will remain for 

“higher-risk venues” such as cafes.

“There have been more cases than anticipated, but we have cracked along with a very low rate of hospitalisation,” Mr McGowan said on Thursday as he stepped back to Level 1 restrictions.

That will mean hospitality venues will be able lift their patronage to 500 people, though the 2sqm rule will still apply.

Mr McGowan said the easing of restrictions, tied to WA’s world-leading vaccination rate, would provide certainty for businesses.

Hospitality and tourism centres like Fremantle have particularly struggled under the tougher restrictions, with a delegation of business owners and the local chamber of commerce meeting with Simone McGurk last week to urge the government to end them as soon as possible.

Businesses the Herald spoke to this week before Mr McGowan’s announcement said enforcing mandates was time-consuming for staff, who’d also had to deal with hostility and people fumbling around trying to prove their vaccination status.

Others were left short-handed when staff were suddenly advised they were a close contact of a positive Covid case and had to go into isolation.

With Covid cases hitting the thousands each day and people either going into isolation or simply staying home to avoid possible infection, nearly every business reported steep drops in trade, with a couple saying it had delayed plans to hire new staff.

“It’s absolutely killed business,” one retailer said, “but it’s not about business, it’s about survival”.

He said the council and state government had not provided local businesses with enough support.

Several businesses said the government should have been clearer about the rules, particularly in relation to what constituted a close contact, while a cafe owner said there wasn’t a level playing field when customers needed to mask up in her venue, but not food halls.

by STEVE GRANT

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