Sydney businesses expect to lose $760 million as a result of the city’s week-long lockdown

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  • The week-long lockdown of central Sydney and surrounding suburbs will cost at least $700 million in lost trade and $60 million in wasted product, peak industry organisations state.
  • From 11.59pm Friday night, non-essential businesses in the local government areas of Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and the City of Sydney will be forced to close their doors.
  • Fitness professionals may be able to withstand a week, but Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish said “if it goes longer than a week, then it’s going to become problematic.”
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The week-long lockdown of central Sydney and surrounding districts could cause half a billion dollars in lost retail trade, a peak industry organisation has warned, as shops, gyms, and entertainment venues prepare to close their doors amid a growing COVID-19 outbreak.

From 11.59pm Friday night, stay-at-home orders will apply to anyone who lives or works in the local government areas of Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and the City of Sydney.

Residents and workers in those regions will only be permitted to leave the home to provide care, shop for essentials, work and study if it is not possible at home, and exercise outdoors.

All non-essential business in those local government areas will be forced to close their doors, including small retailers and fitness facilities.

The decision is a “measured response” to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the Sydney community, said Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra.

But the lockdown is likely to wipe more than half a billion dollars in economic activity off the books and drive Australia’s business confidence backwards, ARA said.

“We recognise the importance of containing the virus, but we can’t ignore the fact these further restrictions come at great cost, particularly for small businesses in the CBD,” Zahra said.

In response to Victoria’s recent state-wide lockdown, the Federal Government announced a new COVID-19 disaster payment, applicable to highly vulnerable workers who could no longer work due to lockdowns.

However, those payments only kick in once a federally-designated COVID-19 hotspot enters its second week of lockdowns.

Considering the loss of the $90 billion JobKeeper scheme, “and much less stimulus in the economy, we hold concerns for those small businesses who were already at breaking point before this latest outbreak,” Zahra said.

In a statement to the Australian Financial Review, Wes Lambert, CEO of the Restaurant & Catering Industry Association, said “our estimates are now over $200 million in lost bookings and events and $60 million in rubbished produce.”

Fitness operators reaching “despair”

Inner Sydney gyms and personal trainers may be able to withstand a week of lost business, Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish told Business Insider Australia.

But “if it goes longer than a week, then it’s going to become problematic.”

Australia’s fitness sector has been hard-hit by lockdowns since the start of the pandemic, making it difficult for gym owners and personal trainers to operate as per usual.

Barrie said continual on-off lockdowns have even broader impacts on the sector.

“I know from talking to the managers, that the more this happens, those on-off on-off [closures], people will just lose interest, and they’ll go and do something else,” Barrie said. “So there’s a lot of potential loss of membership.”

Victoria’s successive lockdowns caused many fitness professionals to leave the industry, Barrie said, while gym owners who managed to hold on through Australia’s various lockdowns describe being unfairly scapegoated during COVID-19 outbreaks.

“On the one hand, they’re angry and frustrated, because they want the business to survive,” Barrie said. “When they go into despair, they can’t see the future. And that’s a really worrying factor.”

Ongoing restrictions for the remainder of Greater Sydney and the Blue Mountains permit gyms to open, with the mandatory use of face masks for patrons.

Elvish said the fitness industry’s conversations with NSW Health have been “very productive and very consultative”.

But the on-again, off-again restrictions have “a trickle effect, basically,” he added. “And so the more this goes on, the harder it’s going to be to recover.”

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally McManus has used the latest lockdown to again call for the institution of “JobKeeper 2”, to “give workers and businesses security not just to survive, but to keep the economic recovery rolling.”

Zahra, Elvish, and McManus all pointed to increasing vaccine uptake as the factor which will stop further lockdowns in the future.

“The lack of vaccine is a huge problem as it is for the whole economy, but it impacts on our businesses as well,” Elvish said.

“Because until people feel safe to go back into [a gym], they’re not going to go back.”