There was “no justification” for South Australian regional pubs and hospitality venues to be shut down in November, a university study has found.

Key points:

  • The University of Adelaide has conducted research to identify the impacts of South Australia’s sudden November lockdown
  • It has found regional hotels and hospitality venues should not have been shut, as there were no country community infections at the time
  • The Riverland’s Berri Hotel is among regional venues that experienced major losses during the brief lockdown

The University of Adelaide’s Centre for Economic Studies [SACES] research has also found more industry consultation is needed before any future coronavirus restrictions are imposed.

The study was in response to South Australia’s initial five-day ‘circuit breaker’ announcement on November 18, which was revoked early.

The Australian Hotels Association commissioned the study, which involved more than 120 hospitality businesses, to identify the impacts of the sudden and short lockdown.

It found there was no justification for country pubs and venues to be closed in late November, as there were no regional community infections at the time.

SACES executive director and report author Associate Professor Michael O’Neil said major job losses were recorded across the state during the three-day shutdown, with about 20,000 jobs lost per day.

He said losses also extended to consumable products.

“Forty per cent of survey respondents reported that with more notice they could have reduced this waste by between 76 and 100 per cent.”

Many regional areas in South Australia, including Berri, rely on tourism and lost significant amounts of money during the lockdown.(ABC Riverland: Meg Vonic-Joyce)

Impacts ‘immediate and substantial’

These losses are something that Riverland-based pub, the Berri Hotel, knows all too well.

Like other hospitality businesses, it rapidly responded to the State Government’s shutdown orders.

“We actually went about disposing of food and other consumables that afternoon on the basis that we wouldn’t be open for five days,” chair of the community-run hotel Paul Stewart said.

“Then we had our accommodation [side of the business] with interstate travellers having to make a decision that they were either going to stay at our venue locked in for seven days or leave.

Mr Stewart said he would like the government to reconsider imposing blanket restrictions across the state if future COVID-19 outbreaks can be contained in metropolitan areas.

“We’re not downplaying the impact of what a major outbreak in the state would do and this is a very emotional and quite a complicated situation,” he said.

“Having said that … because there is a physical separation, in the case where there’s an outbreak in the city, and their ability to lock that down, that does provide protection in the regional areas.

“Never would we be [supportive of] putting the state at risk of a major outbreak and certainly we respect the health department and the politicians’ rights to make those calls.


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