COVID has hit the Daylesford economy hard over the past two weeks.
The local economy depends on visitors. The lockdown has seen visitor numbers drop dramatically over the past two weeks.
There are about 300 local properties listed on booking sites. They are closed for business. That is probably about $100,000 of lost income for every night those properties are not booked in the lockdown.
There are around 100 restaurants, cafes, shops, galleries and retail outlets, plus the local markets. Add another $100,000 a day for discretionary spending on visitor shopping, meals, events and fuel.
Of course, not every day is fully booked, but over a week the total quickly adds up to over $500,000 in lost income from visitors and that doesn’t count day visitors, real estate transactions and so on.
The economic and social impact of lost visitor income is massively skewed. Not everyone is equally affected.
There are farmers, trades people, school teachers, health staff and so on with relatively secure incomes. Similarly the income of retirees is relatively unaffected – particularly those with healthy superannuation accounts. Local spending by these groups is critical for keeping local businesses going during the lockdown.
No one wants to see the spread of COVID, although some are quietly pleased with reduced visitor numbers and the slower, quieter pace of life in Daylesford’s fabulously picturesque setting during lockdowns.
But hundreds of local workers in insecure jobs lose their income during lockdowns – cleaners, hospitality workers, support staff, shop assistants, stall holders and so on. That has flow on impacts on their families.
The same goes for the businesses where they work, placing tremendous stress on owners trying to keep their business and staff going. It leaves many workers and owners feeling insecure and uncertain about their future.
We now have a Yo Yo economy. So far there have been more than 20 breakdowns in quarantine nationally and four major lockdowns in Victoria.
When a lockdown happens, visitor numbers fall and incomes drop rapidly, then restrictions are lifted gradually. Visitor numbers rebound before stabilising.
The cycle repeats itself with the next lockdown.
The medium term solution is a vaccinated community, probably around 80%. When that happens COVID is less likely to spread and those who catch it are very unlikely to get seriously ill.
Getting vaccinated is therefore a high priority. When high levels of vaccination are reached, major lockdowns should become a thing of the past, although there are still likely to be ongoing restrictions and there is likely to still be some COVID spread, illness and death. How much is still not clear.
In the meantime restrictions for regional communities including Daylesford and Hepburn Springs have eased further from Thursday midnight.
You can now have two adults visit each day. Groups of up to 20 can meet outdoors. Increased attendance is permitted at weddings, funerals and religious ceremonies. Community sport and indoor physical activities can resume and retail restrictions have been eased further.
Face masks still have to be worn indoors and where it is not possible to physically distance outside.