Coronavirus: ‘Retail will look very different’: Bunnings, non-food stores to close in MelbourneBlau Medical News
Supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open but almost all other retailing in Melbourne, including hardware stores such as Bunnings, will be closed to customers under stage four restrictions in the Australian city.
Announcing the new rules to fight Victoria’s coronavirus outbreak on Monday – which will also include restrictions on the meat processing and construction industries – the state’s Premier Daniel Andrews said people do not need to panic buy.
“I understand that there is a sense of concern in the community,” he said but people do not need to grab “four trolleys’ worth of groceries and enough chicken or beef to last you until Christmas”.
“You may not be able to buy every single item that you want in the quantities you normally would, but people will have everything they need,” he said.
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“Supermarkets as well as grocery stores, the local fruit and veg, the local butcher, the baker, all of those shops, they will remain open.”
The announcement of the new stage four restrictions came as Victoria recorded 429 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, taking the state’s total to 11,937.
Thirteen people have died from the virus since the last update on Sunday, lifting the state’s death toll to 136.
Victoria moved to stage four on Sunday with tighter controls on people’s movements including a night-time curfew.
On Monday Andrews said there was no choice but to also bring in tougher restrictions on working and shopping.
The alternative, he said, was Covid-19 cases hovering around 500 a day which, as people fell ill, would eventually overwhelm the hospital system.
“We have to do something that is very painful, but will drive these numbers down and drive them down as quickly as possible,” he said.
The Premier said customers will no longer be able to go into large hardware stores such as Bunnings but will be able to collect goods as long as they do not make contact with anybody.
“Retail will look very different than it’s looked,” he says.
“It’s critically important to have many, many people at home rather than at work and moving to and from work each and every day.”
Andrews acknowledged that the changes would have a significant impact on the state’s economy.
“But until we fix the health problem, until we get these case numbers down to a much, much lower level, we simply cannot open the economy up again, so there is significant damage that needs to be done here, but there is no choice but to do that damage, to fix the health problem and then be able to move to rebuilding the economy.
“These are heartbreaking decisions but there is simply no choice.
“The advice from the medical experts is that this is the only way to get these numbers under control, to drive them down low enough so that we can open up again.
“The alternative is a six-month strategy, not a six-week strategy and then even at that point, significant doubt that it would work.”
The businesses that need to close will need to do so by midnight on Wednesday.
Driving transmission down
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he expected that the latest restrictions would drive transmission down.
“We can expect the numbers will improve week on week, but they will improve to the extent that we follow the advice,” he says.
Professor Sutton says stage three restrictions worked in that they flattened the curve but they would have left Victoria with 400-500 cases each day.
“That means you have hundreds of cases going into next month and the month after and the month after,” he says.
Sutton said there was “real confidence” that this harsh lockdown can work.
This is not just his view, he said but that of the public health team supporting him and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee which is made up of all the state and federal chief health officers.
“They are in support of this approach by Victoria. They think it’ll work. And they absolutely think it’s necessary.”
What comes next
Asked if these restrictions were the last resort and if there were plans for a stage five, Sutton said there were very few other changes that could be made.
“We know it’s more challenging in the second wave,” he said. “But we’ve seen it work [overseas] and it will work.”
“We’re not thinking about a stage five. We’re thinking about a successful stage four
“The alternative is inconceivable.”
The Premier agreed with Sutton.
“I’m making it clear to people, we all have to follow these rules,” Andrews said. “We all have to accept that this is the reality we’re now confronted by.
“There is no stage five. This has to work.”