Victoria goes into seven day lockdown

Victorian has been plunged into a seven-day lockdown as the number of Covid cases increased overnight.

The escalating Covid crisis comes as 12 new cases were identified overnight, with more than 70 exposure sites, including the MCG and Docklands stadium.

The latest announcement is yet another blow to the events sector which was only just beginning to get back into its stride following three previous lockdowns.

It will also put more focus on Victoria’s track and tracing systems, which have come under criticism in the past for being light years behind the system used by the NSW Government, which has managed to deal with similar outbreaks without the need for rolling lockdowns.

To date the double whammy of the bushfires followed by the pandemic wiped $19.5 billion in visitor spending from the Victorian economy in 2020, according to a Victoria University and Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) report.

The report found that two-thirds of businesses lost between 75 per cent and 100 per cent of their income and that business insurance has risen by up to 400 per cent in bushfire-affected areas, making it unaffordable for many.

Lead researcher Dr Joanne Pyke, Director of the School for the Visitor Economy at Victoria University, said the majority of those hit by the double crises were struggling.

“The industry is depleted emotionally, financially and physically,” she said. “At the same time, they need to quickly rebuild their businesses, often without the finances, support and workforce that they need to do so.”

Victoria Tourism Industry Council CEO Felicia Mariani said Victoria must lead the way in implementing strategies to address current vulnerabilities in the tourism system and increase resilience to future crises.

“Our sector is not just scrambling to recover from the double crises of the past year; we’re also looking to build resilience and plan for a next inevitable crisis,” Mariani said.

“The sector had already been facing a challenge in attracting enough skilled seasonal workers and Covid has amplified that problem by cutting off our overseas supply of backpackers, students and other workers. This shortage of staff resource is definitely hampering the sector’s ability and pace to recover.”

Dr Pyke said governments needed to implement targeted strategies to support industry in recovery, as many measures had not been helpful in the Victorian context.

“Funding cheap airfares to take tourists to other states has had a negative impact on tourism recovery in Victoria, which relies heavily on people travelling within the state to fill the overseas tourist shortfall,” she said.

“But possibly one of the most significant issues is the dramatic increase in business insurance cost in bushfire areas. Businesses can’t plan for the next crisis or build resilience if they are not assured of the ability to be able fund their recovery after a disaster.”