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90% vax target hit – so why are SMEs still calling the future ‘uncertain’?

Mental health challenges due to COVID impacts have affected more than half of Queensland business owners and their staff, new Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) data shows.

It comes as the state today reaches the 90% vaccination target, but businesses are still without certainty as to what it means for their trading conditions and if mandates will be lifted.

CCIQ Policy and Advocacy General Manager Amanda Rohan said now was the time for Queensland to get back to business and for mandates on hospitality and entertainment businesses to be reviewed and removed.

“In November 2021, businesses were informed of new mandates which would impact them when state borders re-opened but at the same time were promised a review of those rules when Queensland hit the 90% vaccination target,” Ms Rohan said.

“Today is the day Queensland businesses have been hanging out for months. Today is the day the state was due to get back to business and mandates and business restrictions reviewed but the Queensland Premier and the Small Business Minister have not given businesses the clarity and certainty they were promised more than four months ago.

“We know contact tracing requirements have been removed for some businesses but those under the vaccine mandate are still impacted.

“So far, we haven’t seen what the review includes or what it means for those businesses.”

Ms Rohan said close to 63% of businesses CCIQ surveyed said mental health challenges due to COVID impacts had affected them and their staff, up from 45% in July 2021.

One in five Queensland businesses reported a critical constraint on their ability to maintain normal operational hours or service delivery since December.

“The financial and emotional impact of business restrictions, mandates, low consumer confidence, supply chain disruptions and staff availability mean businesses have little optimism to see them through,” Ms Rohan said.

“Many businesses are on their knees, and some have told us the Omicron wave has caused them more financial and emotional harm than the original COVID economic impact in Queensland in 2020.

“These businesses are desperate to know what’s next and what it will take for them to be able to recover long-term.”

Ms Rohan said the essential detail was especially important given businesses still needed access to freely and widely available Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs), the list of essential industries expanded and financial support for businesses forced to close directly due to public health directions.

“Businesses need access to freely and widely available RATs to help them and their staff get back to work quicker, plan for workforce shortages, and ongoing recovery,” Ms Rohan said.

“Its’s equally important the list of essential industries continues to be consistently reviewed to enable businesses to self-assess their risk profile and to ensure employees are able to get back to work as soon as safe and practicable.

“We know staff shortages are impacting small businesses and there is a call for those most impacted businesses to be financially supported.

“Any support package made available must be directly targeted and of joint state and federal support.”

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