Governments urged to stick to the reopening plan

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The Business Council of Australia (BCA) has called on the country’s leaders to stick to the national reopening targets which have set a 70 to 80 per cent coverage target for vaccinations.

In a statement, BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said, “Business is working with governments to accelerate the vaccine rollout and will significantly step up when more vaccine supply comes online.

“At 70 per cent, we need to start removing the high-cost restrictions holding back the economy. At 80 per cent, we cannot turn back; state-wide lockdowns and border restrictions must be a permanent thing of the past,” Westacott added. “Then we must begin the process of reopening the economy internationally with a focus on vaccination credentials and fit-for-purpose quarantine.”

The BCA is adamant that Australian businesses, both big and small, cannot afford to continue dealing with the current uncertainty with regards to the reopening of the economy as it is hurting their growth and future plans.

“We need certainty now, and we back the Prime Minister’s call to stick to the numbers and develop a detailed plan to reach the targets,” Westacott said. “If leaders walk away from the national reopening plan or make the targets meaningless, it will cripple community and business confidence and send a terrible signal to the rest of the world.

“The longer we stay as Fortress Australia, the slower and shallower our recovery will be as we deter foreign investment and major projects, due to the lack of skilled workers; as we put a ‘not welcome’ sign up to tourists; and as we say no to international students,” she added. “Bit by bit, decision by decision we will find ourselves struggling to compete on the international stage in many sectors of the economy.”

The BCA has suggested a more nuanced approach to easing restrictions which can be implemented in areas with high vaccination rates and low case numbers.

“This could involve the return of secondary students to classrooms and increasing the capacity of the construction sector, which helps power the national economy, to 75 per cent when more than 50 per cent of onsite workers are fully vaccinated,” Westacott said. “Other high value, low-risk industries such as some aspects of manufacturing could also ramp up using construction industry-style COVID safety plans.

The council has called on the government to give due rewards to those who have been fully vaccinated people through the safe easing of some restrictions based on vaccination rates, saying that the most important thing that business and the community needs now is a plan with precision that gives them hope.

“We need a roadmap across the Federation that outlines what reopening looks like for business and the community so people can start planning,” Westacott concluded.