The business and hospitality sectors in the ACT say there will be difficult times ahead, following the extension of the territory's lockdown for another two weeks.
Industry groups are warning any further extension to the lockdown would be disastrous unless the government provides even more support for businesses.
Support grants for struggling businesses have been doubled in response to the lockdown extension, which will push the total lockdown time for the territory to more than one month.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced the lockdown would be extended until midnight on Friday, September 17. He said while the ACT was getting on top of the outbreak, more time was still needed.
"It is a slow process and it will take more time. We still have unlinked cases in the community, and we still have cases who are infectious in the community," he said
"We're asking Canberrans to continue to stay at home and minimise close contact with others outside of your household to reduce the transmission potential."
The ACT reported 13 new Covid cases on Tuesday. The total number of cases associated with the outbreak is 274.
While the lockdown has been extended, there has been a slight easing of restrictions based off advice from ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman.
From Thursday evening, Canberrans will be allowed two hours of outdoor exercise, up from one hour. Up to five people will be allowed to gather outdoors for exercise, and outdoor playgrounds will also reopen.
Gardeners and landscapers will be able to return to work. A maximum of 10 people will be allowed to attend a wedding and 20 people will be able to attend a funeral.
Mr Barr also said that residential construction would be able to resume by Friday, September 10, but this was dependent on health advice.
In light of the extension, the ACT and federal governments doubled support grants to businesses affected by the lockdown.
Canberra businesses which have experienced a turnover decline of at least 30 per cent will now be able to claim a grant of up to $20,000, if they have employees. Non-employing businesses can receive a $7500 grant. More than 3700 businesses have already applied for the payments since the applications opened last week.
Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Graham Catt welcomed the increase to the grant but said businesses would face some difficult times ahead. He said any further extension to the lockdown would require additional support, otherwise it could lead to insolvencies.
"We don't have the JobKeeper payments in place flowing through the businesses, we really are entering uncharted waters in many ways for many businesses and for the economy," Mr Catt said.
Hospitality businesses would be able to "tread water" for the next two weeks with support payments, Australian Hotels Association ACT general manager Anthony Brierley said.
But he was incredibly concerned about what it would mean for the industry if the lockdown did get extended.
"That would be disastrous - if we're in this for another couple of months, it's going to be pushing it tight," Mr Brierley said.
ACT senator Zed Seselja worked on the business support package with the territory government, and said if case numbers did not get to zero then there needed to be a plan to live with the virus.
"If the ACT government is unable to get the numbers completely under control over the next couple of weeks, then I think they will have to set out a way that - with very high vaccination rates, which is great - that we can live with the virus, rather than imposing crippling ongoing lockdowns until you get to zero, which of course we know that in many cases, it might be very very difficult to achieve," he said.
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Grants are set to start flowing through to businesses in the coming days, but Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee has again expressed concerns about the delays in the payments.
In a letter to the Chief Minister, she said the Canberra Liberals had been contacted by a large number of business owners who said they had to wait up to 30 days for applications to be assessed.
The construction industry also welcomed the proposed September 10 restart, but Housing Industry Association executive director Greg Weller warned any further delays to the reopening date would be damaging.
"This lockdown has been really tough on the residential building industry, and it is important that we get back to work as soon as possible," Mr Weller said.
"Unlike many in the community who are able to work from home, when building trades are not working, they are not getting paid. Equally when building trades are not out there onsite, the economic benefits of new home and building renovations for the ACT economy are lost."
- with Dan Jervis-Bardy
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