Ballarat's business leaders say they are frustrated at the government's resistance to ease COVID-19 restrictions in regional Victoria.
Committee for Ballarat chief executive Michael Poulton, Commerce Ballarat chief executive Jodie Gillett and Victorian president of the Australian Hotels Association David Canny say many Ballarat businesses are hanging by a thread and have called for the immediate easing of rules.
However, Premier Daniel Andrews and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Wednesday there were no plans to further ease COVID-19 restrictions immediately in regional Victoria, now in the 'third step', despite scant evidence of the virus outside of Melbourne.
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Ballarat has not had a new case for more than a month and has been clear of active infections for three weeks.
Mr Canny, who has been calling for the easing of rules since numbers dropped substantially, said the industry had proved it could operate safely.
"Regional Victoria's 14-day average is at 0.3 cases today, no other jurisdiction has been closed at this point," he said. "We've got COVID-safe plans...no increases... the time has come, enough is enough."
Mr Poulton agreed, saying businesses following COVID-19 restrictions were not seeing any direct benefits from their hard work adjusting to the changing landscape.
"Businesses are doing everything that's been asked for us in terms of government compliance," he added.
"At some point the government has to look at that and make some changes, because we know that we can open up safely. There's no point doing all this compliance work if we don't see the results."
Ms Gillett added: "Businesses are stretching their resources even further, training their staff and making sure they are doing the right thing".
Ms Gillett said businesses, particularly hospitality venues, will continue to be hurt financially until restrictions change to allow greater numbers indoors.
"From a business perspective, we want our businesses that are still closed to be able to open within the COVID-guidelines," she said.
"We need more numbers in hospitality... they are bleeding - if we don't get open in the next little while, we are going to see some dire consequences within the industry."
Looking at how regional Victoria could move forward without being tethered to Melbourne's progress, Mr Poulton suggested adopting a similar model to New Zealand, which has been shot down by the state government.
"I think a good example is New Zealand," he continued.
"When the country started to open up again, if they saw an outbreak, they focussed very hard on that outbreak.
"You can't sit and wait, closing the economy down because you fear an outbreak, it's not sustainable, it's not a long term solution. The whole of the state can't suffer because there's an outbreak in one area."
There have been just four new coronavirus cases confirmed in the regions in the last 14 days, however all cases were traced and none were deemed as "mystery cases".
There are just three active cases in regional Victoria and those cases are expected to be cleared in the coming days.
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