After two years of stop-start measures to control COVID-19 it’s time to put the lessons of the pandemic into practice as we respond to the omicron variant, Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.
“The worst thing Australia can do in the face of a new COVID-19 variant is panic.
“Unlike the beginning of the pandemic, Australia has managed this challenge before and we know we can do it again to keep Australians safe and protect livelihoods.
“Unless the risk level rises dramatically, state governments should forge ahead with the reopening. More than 1,600 people from businesses of all sizes supported our call for states to stick to the national reopening plan and put Australia on the path to recovery.
“We’ve been here before, we know that clear, consistent and risk-based action is the best way to maintain our economic momentum and keep people safe.
“Before making knee-jerk decisions that will throw lives into chaos and make it impossible for businesses to plan, we need answers to the critical questions about this new challenge.
“We still do not know the impact this variant will have on the efficacy of vaccines, how quickly it spreads or the kind of illness it produces.
“The answers to these questions will be critical to updating the expert Doherty Institute modelling that supports the national reopening plan.
“The community needs nationally clear and consistent messages about what restrictions may be put in place and their triggers.
“And we should be putting the systems in place now to manage outbreaks locally if and when they occur.
“National Cabinet can limit the economic damage of this uncertainty by giving businesses clarity and certainty that the mistakes of the past will be avoided.
“That means no state-wide lockdowns and domestic border closures that throw peoples’ lives into chaos.
“On international travel, state governments should stay the course with no caps in incoming travellers and sensible 72-hour quarantine arrangements.
“Continuing the work to get critical skills, internationals students and returning Australians back into the country is critical, Australian jobs depend on it.
“National Cabinet should continue planning for industry led quarantine systems, building facilities that may be needed and once and for all they should put a nationally consistent permitting system in place.
“The community needs nationally consistent rules and triggers for locally targeted containment. We cannot afford another 2 years of unsustainable stop-start lockdowns and restrictions.
“This news will be a huge blow for the entire community, but Australians have proven we can manage this challenge to protect lives and livelihoods.
“We can’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”