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Melbourne business confusion as tough rules, big fines kick in

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Tough new restrictions for businesses and workers kicked-in for Melbourne at midnight but a promised list of who can work on-site, particularly in warehouses, came too late, industry groups say.

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People allowed to work on-site now have to show a permit or official work ID if they are by stopped police to prove they can leave their homes, or face fines of up to $99,123 for businesses and up to $19,826 for individuals.

Since the stage four restrictions were announced by the Victorian government on Sunday, there’s been rising confusion about who can and cannot leave home for work in metropolitan Melbourne.

The government had promised to provide more details ahead of the restrictions coming into effect from Thursday but business groups say it came very late in night, leaving business scrambling.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said nothing was made available by the Department of Health and Human Services until after 11pm Wednesday -just an hour before midnight.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos tweeted a public link to the updated guidelines at 1am Thursday.

“It’s still a bit of a disaster,”Willox told Nine’s Today show on Thursday.

“We’re now on the first morning of the new lockdown, and businesses still aren’t clear on what they can and can’t do.

Willox said businesses were “flying blind”, particularly on issues like warehouses, noting that “reducing numbers of staff in warehouses would impact on food supplies, among many other things”, he told ABC radio.

Premier Daniel Andrews had warned earlier this week the new restrictions, which would see normal staffing levels at food warehouse and meat production outlets reduced to one-third, would impact food supply.

Retail stores across the city will largely be closed to customers from Thursday, while construction and manufacturing work will also been scaled back in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

Permitted workers and those working from home who cannot supervise their kids must fill out separate forms to send them to child care, kindergarten or primary school.

The rules kick in a day after Victoria recorded its deadliest day of the COVID-19 pandemic with 15 fatalities, including that of a man in his 30s, and 725 new cases.

The state’s death toll is now 162 and the national toll is 247.

There are 538 Victorians with coronavirus in hospital – up 82 from Tuesday – with 42 of them in intensive care.

The state’s second wave of the virus prompted Andrews on Sunday to declare a state of disaster, and flag the stage four restrictions for metropolitan Melbourne, including an 8pm-5am daily curfew.

-AAP

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