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“Every lockdown has a human impact”, says Business CEO

Following a comprehensive survey of its members, Business SA – South Australia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry – has revealed the one-week lockdown in July cost the South Australian economy up to $446m.

Seeking to better understand the impacts of the July lockdown, Business SA surveyed its members, not only on the financial implications of what was considered at the time the harshest lockdown Australia had seen, but its effect on the mental health of business operators.

For restricted sectors, revenue losses ranged from a median of $10,000 for employers in the cultural and recreational services sector to $45,000 for employers in the construction sector, while median direct costs for all businesses under $2m turnover were $3,500, compared to $25,000 for businesses over $2m in turnover.

Government support provided during this time was most welcomed, but the results concluded in this survey determine the harsh reality of unrecoverable losses faced by many business owners.

Business SA Chief Executive Officer Martin Haese says: “These numbers are the first true indication of business losses resulting from a South Australian lockdown, and also the associated human impact”.

“It’s important to note that although the lockdown lasted for only 7 days, the financial implications of associated restrictions that remain in place continue to have a detrimental effect on businesses and the economy at large”.

Unlike previous lockdowns, substantive losses were not isolated to the accommodation, tourism, and hospitality sectors.

Using REMPLAN’s input-output economic modelling, Business SA estimates the economic impact of the July lockdown ranged from $316m to $452m or 0.29 to 0.41 per cent of Gross State Product (GSP).

The lower estimate represents the effect that the loss of revenue had on the most directly impacted sectors. The upper bound of the estimate takes into account the additional supply chain effect for sectors that were still able to operate during the lockdown but supplied sectors unable to operate.

“The unfortunate reality of the most recent lockdown was that nearly 40 per cent of businesses expected no recovery of lockdown losses, and only 4 per cent expected to fully recover lost revenue” said Andrew McKenna – Business SA Director, Policy and Advocacy.

One business owner who wishes to remain anonymous said: “After every lockdown and heightened period of restrictions, I have to start my business from scratch. It’s exhausting”.

While many businesses experienced losses in revenue, they were still beholden to the everyday costs of running a business. 49 per cent of respondents reported wages as their most challenging cost, followed by 27 per cent of businesses identifying rent as their most challenging cost.

“We are not arguing the lock down should never have happened, but we are asking governments to consider the wide range of financial impacts on businesses when determining future financial support packages,” said Mr McKenna.

As mental health month approaches, Business SA also highlights the impact that lockdowns and ongoing restrictions have on the wellbeing of business owners and their staff.

“The combination of little or no revenue, ongoing costs and anxiety about the future plays heavily on the minds of business owners,” said Mr Haese.

“With Mental Health Awareness Month due to commence on the first of October, it is timely to state that 73 per cent of survey respondents reported experiencing mental health impacts within their business as a result of the July lockdown. Every lockdown has a human impact.” said Mr Haese.

In a report sent to the State Government this week, Business SA, South Australia’s peak employer body, expressed the need for scalable support in the case of future lockdowns, ensuring financial support doesn’t fail the needs of the most heavily impacted businesses.

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