The implementation of Melbourne’s strict Stage 4 lockdowns has sparked mass confusion across the state, with businesses and employees scrambling to find out if they can continue working.
Hundreds of business leaders have expressed their frustration at the lack of clarity and mixed messaging from government departments.
The concerns range from confusion over which businesses are allowed to stay open, how supply and distribution will be affected, and eligibility for the permits that allow employees to travel to work.
“There’s a lack of clarity of what is essential: Who can work go to work, who can’t go to work,” said businessman Paul Kasteel who runs Miss Kuku in Windsor.
He said across all industries businesses had been scrambling to get a straight answer on who was allowed to operate.
“So I can tell you from a hospitality perspective, someone with a tavern licence, for instance, they are a banned business.
“Now common sense says restaurants and pubs and taverns with kitchens can still do food.
“But one place I know, they’re trying to do the right thing and couldn’t get a clear answer about if they can still do home delivery and takeaway drinks.
Even global companies like McDonald’s are still trying to work out if it is allowed to keep its drive-through facilities open past curfew, and others are trying to determine which staff are allowed to be placed on the worker permit scheme.
Employees must carry workers permits which they print from a government website under Stage 4 restrictions.
If they fail to do so, penalties are heavy.
There are fines of up to $19,826 for individuals and $99,132 for businesses who do not comply with the rules.
Meanwhile, even a Victoria Police precinct has admitted it is unclear on how to enforce the permits.
In one instance, police officers from a station in the state’s south-east told a local resident they were unsure whether she would be fined for visiting her sick daughter and two grandchildren.
The woman has an essential workers permit for her job as an aged-care worker, and her daughter lives less than five kilometres away.
“They told me they were 99 per cent sure I would be OK, but it depends on the officers who pull me over,” she told The New Daily after calling the station on Thursday to ask whether it would be allowed.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said the speed of the decision had caused the confusion.
“The restrictions faced by Victorian businesses are unprecedented, and this is not what any business owner wants to see happen,” Mr Guerra said.
“The speed at which restrictions have been introduced has caused uncertainty for many businesses about whether they are permitted to continue operating and under what conditions.”
He said VCCI was working with the state government to bring clarity and make sure the lockdown properly works.
“There is less confusion today as the areas have been clarified, and there will be less confusion tomorrow,” Mr Guerra said.