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Call to compensate businesses, staff impacted when COVID hits

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The State Government is being asked for clarity on how it might assist or compensate businesses that are forced to close or whose staff have to quarantine after coming into close contact with a positive COVID-19 case when borders reopen on Tuesday.

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Treasurer Rob Lucas told InDaily this morning that neither the federal nor state governments would offer compensation to businesses from November 23, but the state government would “consider options and monitor what other states do”.

Under changes to the state’s quarantine and testing requirements announced yesterday and to come into force next week, businesses will no longer have to shut for a deep clean if they are identified as a COVID-19 exposure site.

But workers who come in contact with positive cases could be forced to quarantine for seven days if they are vaccinated, or 14 days if they are unvaccinated, depending on a range of factors including how close they were to the infectious person or whether face masks were in use.

The state and federal governments have previously offered financial support to businesses during statewide lockdowns.

But the State Government has announced that from November 23, statewide lockdowns would become a thing of the past, while federal funding is being scaled back as vaccination rates creep closer to the 80 per cent threshold.

Premier Steven Marshall told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that the end of broad lockdowns would be a relief for businesses.

“I think there’s huge relief from businesses in terms of taking away the threat of a statewide lockdown, huge relief that they don’t have to lockdown for a deep clean for their organisation and huge relief that we don’t just say, ‘look, this business is closed, you can’t go there anymore’,” he said.

But Australian Hotels Association SA general manager Ian Horne said it was “very, very concerning” that the Government was not offering compensation to businesses and workers, saying hotels were calling for a “state-based version of JobKeeper”.

He said he was yet to calculate how much financial support the Government should offer, saying the impact of the new quarantine requirements would depend on the individual circumstances of businesses and employees.

“We’re not in a position to announce any proposed slabs of funding because this was only revealed yesterday,” he said.

“There’s been a vacuum of information until what we saw yesterday and we’re now confronted with a very complex matrix that now captures every single employer in South Australia.

“Now every single business – large, small and micro – is now going to have to apply their mind in a way they’ve never had to do before to how they manage this, to avoid their business being caught up.”

Business SA CEO Martin Haese said while he welcomed yesterday’s confirmation that there would be no more statewide lockdowns, businesses owners had taken on “a disproportionate amount of financial burden” throughout the coronavirus pandemic and financial support could be necessary.

“If we get to the point of businesses being closed down due to staff in quarantine, Business SA remains resolute in its call for both the federal and state governments to provide reasonable financial support,” he said.

“We understand that SA Health will contact business owners to let them know that a suspected COVID case was in their premises, and will be asking for a few details including how much time that person spent in the business, did they wear a mask, and how close were they to the staff?

“The implications of this self-assessment are significant – if you are a business owner that has determined that there was a close contact with a positive COVID-19 case, then staff have to quarantine. This quarantine is for seven days if the staff are double vaccinated or 14 days if they are unvaccinated.”

Lucas said over the past three months, the Government paid more than $105 million in cash grants to local businesses, particularly those in the arts, hospitality and tourism sectors.

“The Marshall Liberal Government is committed to the state’s strong ongoing economic recovery from COVID and will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with businesses as we have done throughout the pandemic,” he said.

It’s not just businesses that are finding the new quarantine and testing requirements hard to navigate, with InDaily today publishing letters from readers seeking clarification on a range of issues.

SA Health told InDaily this morning that further information about what will happen once South Australia reopens its borders next Tuesday will be announced in the coming days.

Below, InDaily attempts to answer some of the questions posed by our readers.

Q: Do I need a travel permit to enter South Australia from November 23?

A: People planning to travel into South Australia still need to apply for a cross border travel permit via the SA Police website. They can only do so after 12.01am (ACST) on November 23. Any application submitted prior to that time will be assessed against the travel restrictions currently in place.

Q: Can unvaccinated children aged under 12 who are accompanied by fully-vaccinated adults enter South Australia from November 23 without having to quarantine or apply for a travel exemption?

A:  SA Health says further information will be announced in the coming days.

Q: Is it necessary to have evidence of a negative COVID-19 test prior to entering South Australia? 

A: Premier Steven Marshall told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that travellers wanting to enter South Australia will require a test before arriving.  

SA Health says further information will be announced in the coming days.

Q: How do you find out if there has been community transmission in a local government area? 

A: SA Health says further information will be announced in the coming days.

Q: Will travellers from the City of Sydney and Melbourne, or other LGAs impacted by vaccine data anomalies, be allowed to enter South Australia from November 23?

A: Premier Steven Marshall has previously said that the Government is aware of the issue and SA Health was working to address concerns.

SA Health says further information will be announced in the coming days.

Q: Why is the Premier allowing unvaccinated people in from the eastern states?

A: Premier Steven Marshall said yesterday that there were “certain circumstances where vaccination is not appropriate” and the Government would therefore allow unvaccinated people to enter South Australia.

“There are some medical reasons and there are some compassionate reasons where people can’t get vaccinated fast enough,” he said.

“We’ve proven ourselves to be as flexible as we can while still keeping the protection in place in South Australia and that will continue into the future.”

Unvaccinated people wanting to travel into South Australia need to apply for a travel exemption via the SA Health website.

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