The spirit of a proud regional city will be vital in backing each other in the looming crisis as the coronavirus pandemic continues to close businesses and incite anxiety, according to Ballarat's leaders.
Following the closure of institutions like Sovereign Hill, and new rules implemented by the federal government limiting public gatherings to one person for every four square metres - a measure which threatens many hospitality venues - Commerce Ballarat, the Committee for Ballarat, and the council have united to encourage confidence and active support.
Safety measures, like thoroughly washing hands, avoiding touching your face, and social distancing of 1.5 metres is still recommended, and anyone who has returned from overseas must quarantine immediately for 14 days.
There has been one case of COVID-19 confirmed by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services in Ballarat - the patient is in a stable condition isolated at the Ballarat Base Hospital.
The Australian Banking Association announced small businesses affected by the pandemic will be able to defer loan repayments for six months, and the federal government has also flagged additional stimulus support for small and medium businesses.
However, right now, Ballarat businesses remain open and need support.
The City of Ballarat is limited by what it can do as local government, but on Friday announced more measures in its economic response package.
These include an automatic extension of some permits, registrations, and licences for a six-month period, consideration for bringing forward minor capital works to support contractors and suppliers, streamlining permit assessment processes, and more information for business about modified practices.
Council used the example of expanding outdoor dining footprints to support social distancing at hospitality venues.
Mayor Ben Taylor encouraged residents to safely continue visiting shops and support local business.
"We can see things are hitting hard, we can see tourists aren't coming to Ballarat, and people are hesitant about getting out and shopping," he said.
"We're looking forward to seeing what comes through from state and federal governments, making sure (the measures) are broad enough for all levels of business, we've got larger businesses, the services industry, hospitality, and casuals.
"If people are having concerns around hardship and paying rates, please phone customer service, they're more than willing to take those calls and work through what can be done,"
Commerce Ballarat's chief executive Jodie Gillett said she had been heartbroken as more horror stories emerged from Ballarat businesses letting staff go or closing.
She urged employers, as well as employees, to take advantage of Commerce Ballarat's free online resources whether they were members or not - these include mental health, accounting, and legal tips.
It was encouraging to see businesses begin to "pivot" and explore new ways to stay open, she said, though she cautioned not every business had this option available.
"We need to, as a community, support our businesses wherever we can and whenever we can, when we're able," she said.
"We need to be conscious and mindful of the difficult circumstances these businesses are in, they're putting off staff or lessening hours - they're looking for ways to do business differently to give staff as many hours as they can.
"It's an incredibly difficult environment, and we need to be understanding of that."
Ms Gillett added a "rapid response" was needed from all levels of government.
"Businesses need to know now, they need to know if their rent's going to be frozen or if they'll have time to deal with it," she said.
"How are they going to pay their staff this week in industries right across this city?"
The Committee for Ballarat's chief executive, Michael Poulton, said the organisation wanted to hear from people about what needs to be done now.
"It's a health crisis, absolutely, but very quickly it becomes a business crisis, an economic crisis, and they're things we have to prepare people for," he said.
"There's great intent from the City, Commerce, and ourselves to work together for business, for the community, to make sure we don't leave people behind."
He added people must prioritise their own health, and particularly that of healthcare workers, to help flatten the curve.
"If we want our hospital to be at its best, we need these people to be looked after," he said.
"Also, what can we do as individuals, and together, to keep people out of hospitals - look after each other, make sure we're healthy ourselves."
The Courier has begun a free business register, to share which businesses are still open.
A number of campaigns - City of Ballarat's Be Kind Ballarat, urging compassion during the crisis; Commerce Ballarat's Resource Connect, matching businesses who need resources with those with excess; and Committee for Ballarat's Share the Care, encouraging positive health and looking after healthcare workers, are also being promoted.
That is much appreciated by Ballarat Health Services as it works on the frontline of the pandemic, according to acute operations executive director Ben Kelly.
"One of the most important things for us is that we are all working together and we're observing all the guidelines and advice we are receiving - it's a lot of information to process, but the clear guidelines people need to be following constantly is hand hygiene and social distancing," he said.
For more information visit dhhs.vic.gov.au/novelcoronavirus or phone the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 for advice if you are displaying symptoms.
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