Restrictions hit northern businesses hard


By Laura Michell

Concerns have been raised about the impact of stage four restrictions on Whittlesea and Hume residents after a number of businesses closed their doors last week.

Under Stage 4 restrictions, all businesses deemed to be non-essential by the state government were forced to close last Thursday.

The widespread closures have resulted in thousands of workers being put out of a job for the next six weeks, adding to the region’s growing unemployment rate.

Whittlesea council’s acting chief executive, Joe Carbone, told a recent council meeting that the pandemic was affecting all corners of the community, adding that Stage 4 restrictions would change the face of retail and manufacturing.

He said data provided to the council revealed 4900 local jobs had been lost as of June.

“Another telling piece of data is the number of our residents on JobSeeker or job allowances, and this figure has more than doubled since the same time last year. In June 2019, it was 4.1 per cent – now we have reached 9.8 per cent,” he said.

Mr Carbone said the unemployment rate in some Whittlesea suburbs was between 12.7- 13.1 per cent.

He said it was likely the council would need to draw on reserve funding to help with its continued response to the pandemic, noting that there had been a four-fold increase in the number of food hampers being delivered by local relief organisations weekly.

In Hume, over 14,000 jobs have been lost since the beginning of COVID-19 restrictions, according to the council’s planning and development director, Michael Sharp.

“We won’t know the full extent of COVID-19’s impact on Hume businesses until we are on the other side of this pandemic,” he said.

Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases linked to significant outbreaks in both municipalities continues to grow.

As of Monday, there were 188 cases linked to Epping Gardens, making it Victoria’s largest aged care outbreak. Craigieburn’s Arcare Aged Care has been linked to 88 cases.

Thomastown’s Bertocchi Smallgoods factory was linked to 201 cases as of Monday, while 32 cases have also been recorded at the Ingham’s factory, also in Thomastown.

Bundoora childcare centre Nino Early Learning Adventures was linked to 45 cases on Sunday, while 13 cases have been recorded at South Morang’s Bluebird Early Education.

There were 585 active coronavirus cases in Hume and 563 cases in Whittlesea, as of Monday.