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‘Not all doom and gloom’: Businesses better prepared for lockdown life

“Businesses in general are benefiting from the ‘learning by doing’ experience with restrictions in 2020,” Mr Willox said. “More broadly, businesses and individuals are better equipped and more confident about COVID-19 safe workplaces, working from home and managing and keeping people engaged.”

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He said QR code checking in was a clear advance on last year and there were more avenues of consultation between business and government. But he said many regulatory requirements around restrictions “remain uncertain”.

ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank also said it’s “not all doom and gloom”.

“The past year has shown how resilient the economy has become, with households and businesses adapting to stay-at-home orders,” he said. However, he said hospitality, tourism, arts and recreation businesses will struggle.

“With movement restrictions set to be part of the landscape for longer than we anticipated, our current forecasts for a 1.3 per cent quarter-on-quarter decline in GDP in the third quarter and a significant snap back in the fourth quarter now look too optimistic,” he said.

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Council of Small Business Organisations Australia interim chief executive Alexi Boyd agreed small businesses were much more prepared for lockdowns in terms of the practical requirements but she said there was still confusion about the support measures available.

She said accumulating debts has “a compounding effect” and lots of businesses fear having to leave their premises and pay out the remainder of their lease.

“There’s a real feeling of deep despair and anger, there’s only so long resilience can last, and we need measures to help us be more durable.”

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar said many businesses would lose a significant share of their trade if not all of it during the restrictions.

“While some businesses may be able to pivot to online sales or takeaway, it is not a complete substitute. It is far from a panacea for the hit many businesses have taken from the loss of normal trade,” Mr McKellar said.

“The longer lockdowns remain, the more challenging it is for affected business to resume their services.”

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