Coronavirus crisis: Small business grants announced as WA nears end of restrictions

Josh Zimmerman & Briana Fiore, The West Australian,
Premier Mark McGowan.
Premier Mark McGowan. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian

Small businesses impacted by the Perth and Peel lockdown — including in the bush — will be eligible for $3000, Mark McGowan has announced while confirming WA remains on track to return to life with almost no restrictions on Monday.

But he warned the State’s hard border with NSW could strengthen even further if the number of cases linked to the Sydney outbreak continued to spiral out of control.

“Today, the Police Commissioner in his role as the State Emergency Coordinator and the Chief Health Officer will further review the current arrangements to see if they can be further tightened up,” Mr McGowan said, adding travel exemptions on compassionate grounds were under particular scrutiny.

“Ordinarily, (compassionate exemptions are for) returning West Australians coming home who might have gone to New South Wales for a short period of time,” he said.

“If that particular category had to be tightened further under the circumstances we face, well then that’s what we’d look at doing.”

The Premier also announced $41 million in support for around 18,000 small businesses impacted by the four-day lockdown, ranging from hospitality venues and hair and beauty salons to gyms and performing arts studios.

“We understand that $3,000 will not cover every cost for every business but it will provide some significant cash flow,” he said.

The grants have been upped from the $2000 available in the wake of the ANZAC Day long weekend lockdown.

“This reflects the fact that this lockdown lasted for days and occurred during the working week,” Mr McGowan said.

“They’re also available to eligible small businesses in regional WA. This is because we recognise that regional businesses lost customers heading into the school holidays.”

Mr McGowan said he had written to the Commonwealth to ask for disaster relief payments for casual workers — currently only available during lockdowns that last at least seven days — although he is yet to here back.

The WA Premier is also spearheading a national push to incentivise aged care workers to be vaccinated ahead of the jabs likely becoming mandatory for that cohort on September 15.

“We could offer perhaps vouchers of $50 or $100 for Woolworths or Coles or Bunnings to encourage people to go and get vaccinated as soon as they can and see how that goes,” he said.

“We have about 30,000 people who work in aged care in Western Australia (and) most of them are not vaccinated.

“So whatever we can do, including enforcement but also including encouragement… I’m just very keen to get those people vaccinated as soon as I can.”

The accelerated delivery of Pfizer vaccines from July 19 means more appointments will soon be opened up and Mr McGowan said 30-39 year-olds who had already registered their interest in receiving a jab would be “contacted soon” about making a booking.

The winding back of COVID measures in WA means mask will no longer be mandatory from Monday and capacity limits — including at Optus Stadium — will be dropped.

COVID plans will remain a requirement for large events and contact registers will also remain mandatory.

Travel restrictions to remote Aboriginal communities are still in place.

Mr McGowan thanked the WA community for the “incredible achievement” and said a “fast and decisive” lockdown had again proved effective.

Quarantine-free travel has now resumed for Victorian arrivals, with the Northern Territory slated to also be reclassified as “very low-risk” from Monday.

Mr McGowan said 46 of the now 55 casual contacts linked to a COVID-infected seafarer treated at Geraldton Health Campus on Sunday evening had now returned negative tests and reitreated the threat to the regiona community remained “miniscule”.