Brisbane has entered a snap three-day lockdown after the city recorded four new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, but as JobKeeper ends there are concerns the lockdown will harm businesses.
Brisbane is only the latest state or city to lock down in the last few months with NSW, Victoria and Perth all introducing brief lockdowns in efforts to stop the virus spreading further.
The snap lockdown will be the first without the JobKeeper safety net in place for businesses, something the CEO of the Restaurant and Catering Association has described as a “crushing blow”.
“With school holidays and Easter just days away, the recently announced lockdown could be the final blow for many businesses who have spent more than 12 months struggling to survive,” CEO Wes Lambert said.
“However, this lockdown is different. There is no JobKeeper safety net for these businesses, and little to no support will be forthcoming until after the lockdown is over.”
He said Brisbane businesses are looking at standing down more staff amid up to $50 million in lost revenue and another $15 million in discarded produce.
“With one of the busiest tourism periods upon us, this announcement means one thing for thousands of restaurants and cafes across not just greater Brisbane, but all of Queensland: Chaos.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg defended the decision to repeal the JobKeeper payments, warning prolonging the scheme would only weaken the economy.
The bigger economic picture: Snap lockdowns slow recovery
While the snap lockdowns will hurt businesses in the interim, the broader economic recovery should remain largely on track – provided businesses feel confident to invest in their future, AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver told Yahoo Finance.
“Business investment is going to be the next big issue; we really need to see business investment ramp up,” he said.
“Now we’re moving into expansion, the issue is if we are going to slip back into the same slow growth pattern we saw prior to the pandemic, or can we reinvigorate the economy on a long term basis,” he said.
“[Lockdowns] slow it down and disrupt it, that’s what happens.”
And, he added, while the snap lockdowns aren’t a terminal problem, they will pose a bigger problem if they continue to put a damper on travel plans.
The Federal Government recently announced a $1.2 billion package designed to protect the aviation and tourism sector from the prolonged travel challenges. Included in the package are 800,000 half-price flights designed to get Australians out into the regions.
“We want Australians to travel, but they’re not going to travel if they find themselves caught up in snap lockdowns.
“It does act as a disincentive to book holidays and that is still debilitating. But it all comes back to the vaccine: if we were further ahead with the vaccination program, we’d be less worried about these things.”