With the prospect of COVID zero in the rear-view mirror, Ballarat businesses are now grappling with the possibility of having to check customers' vaccination passports as restrictions ease heading into summer.
Last week, Premier Daniel Andrews indicated the state government was considering a trial program where regional Victorian hospitality businesses would be able to reopen to fully vaccinated patrons.
While Victoria recorded 246 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, regional Victoria remains COVID-free outside Shepparton and Geelong.
Speaking on Monday morning, health minister Martin Foley said while regional Victoria was still planned to come out of lockdown as early as this week, it would be a 'gradual easing'.
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"There are still plans for not a snapback, but certainly an easing of restrictions for regional Victoria with the likely exception of the Shepparton, Goulburn Valley area, because of the cluster there," he said.
"It shouldn't be seen as a snapback to where we were, say, in April or May, but certainly a recognition that the chain of transmission in the regions are different and in most of the regions very different to what they are in metropolitan Melbourne."
However, as businesses get ready to reopen, having to check vaccine passports could put even more pressure on the hard-hit hospitality sector.
Commerce Ballarat chief executive Jodie Gillett said it was important that businesses received support as they continue to check identification and possibly vaccine passports.
"I think it's going to be really important that businesses have access to free training in this way not only on what the rules are, how to go about following the rules, but also for the government to fund organisations or training providers to actually deliver some of this support," she said.
"We're finding that a lot of these people that are sitting on the front door having to do this are quite young and these are really difficult situations they're finding themselves in. There needs to be access to free training and free support in order for businesses to police this."
Ms Gillett said restrictions meant businesses were using more resources to provide less service.
"When we reopen, there is so much pressure on businesses to be making sure that people are checking in with the QR code and monitoring capacity limits, so it's actually taking more staff and more resources to deliver less because they can't have the amount of people, so we have to keep recognising that even when we open up," she said.
"The government needs to keep recognising the pressure that they're under, the additional resources that are required and ensure that all of that support is around them to help them so what we, as a community, need them to do."
Piano Bar owner Andy Pobjoy said while the business would work within any restrictions in order to reopen, vaccine passports could cause some issues.
"It comes down to implementation because once people present at the front door, they might've booked online or paid for that booking, and then to be refused entry at the front door because they don't have a valid vaccine passport, it does cause a bit of a pinch point for conflict," he said.
"If a key piece of the puzzle to getting reopened and getting some decent numbers back is a vaccine passport, we will do our best to enforce it. We will absolutely be making sure that if they're the rules, we're going to stick by them."
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