COVID rules rollback – retailers rejoice

by | Apr 26, 2022

Hardware independents are celebrating a recent announcement by Victorian and New South Wales state governments that will see several of the last remaining COVID restrictions eased.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and the National Retail Association (NRA) have also welcomed the recent decision to roll back COVID isolation rules for close contacts.

Just some of the biggest changes that are expected to make a big difference to the daily running of hardware stores include close contacts no longer having to undertake seven days isolation. Instead of isolating, close contacts are required to avoid sensitive settings (aged care, hospitals etc), wear masks in indoor settings outside of the home and undertake RAT tests during their former isolation period. 

The decision is set to ease staffing issues across the hardware industry with many small businesses finding the isolation requirements reducing staff numbers so much, businesses had to close temporarily until staff numbers could be resumed.

The recent announcements will make a substantial difference to small retailers in both states, NRA Chief Executive Officer Dominique Lamb said in a recent Ragtrader report.

“Isolation rules have been critical in reducing the severity of infection rates, but as vaccination rates peak, close contacts who are vaccinated should be able to continue to work, or we will continually have large numbers of people out of the workforce.”

“Small businesses are losing massive chunks of revenue as their employees are unable to work. This is causing our economy to fall behind other developed countries that are prospering from an active workforce. In the past two years we have mitigated the risks as much as possible, at times to the detriment of the retail and hospitality workforce. It is time to move forward and get healthy people back to work,” Ms Lamb said in the report. 

Additional rules that have eased in Victoria include ceasing check-in requirements at venues for staff and patrons, with masks in retail and hospitality settings no longer required. 

However, vaccination requirements do remain in place and masks are required for workers and patrons in selected settings including public transport and at airports. All workplaces still require a COVIDSafe Plan, according to the report.

Public health orders requiring key workforces to be vaccinated will be lifted in New South Wales, with vaccine requirements to be based on risk assessments under occupational work health and safety. 

ARA Chief Executive Officer, Paul Zahra said in the report that retailers are particularly relieved to see isolation requirements ease. 

“We are one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, and into the third year of this pandemic. Staff shortages due to COVID isolations have been an enormous frustration for small businesses in particular, with 48 per cent of ARA Members saying the situation had gotten worse in the past month.”

“Some have had to alter their trading hours or close some locations altogether because they have not been able to get people to fill shifts at the last minute. These announcements are an enormous relief for businesses who have not been able to trade at their full potential. The days of overzealous COVID rules are over,” Mr Zahra said in the report.