COVID hits hospitality sector hard

Mount Gambier is struggling through the current influx of COVID cases in the region, with businesses and events doing it tough.

Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce president Hayley Neumann said businesses were being hit with a double whammy of a drop in customers plus a shortage of staff.

“I’m hearing there are a lot of stressed people out there at the moment, there’s a lot of confusion,” she said

“Staff levels are really hard to work with, if they are close contacts and call in and cant’ work, or are waiting for test results.

“It is really difficult to know if you are coming or going with staff.

“Everyone is trying their best, but it’s really difficult to function.

“I think it’s mainly in hospitality and service type industries and it’s even into retail, plus there are a lot of sole traders in the Mount and in the Limestone Coast and they only have a couple of employees, they are worried about their business and think they will have to shut if they have staff who are positive or close contacts because they will have to shut for seven days.

“It will cross all industries eventually.”

Ms Neumann said she was yet to come up with a solution to the current situation.

“I have been racking my brain and I just do not know what the answer is, I wish we could all have a pool of extra employees to call upon,” she said.

“I think everyone just needs to be patient and understanding and make sure they are looking after themselves.

“At the moment it just seems like closing is the easier answer as everyone wants to protect their staff and their customers.”

Ms Neumann said she was shocked to see how quickly COVID had spread through the community and believed it had spooked shoppers.

“There’s no official data around it, but I know when I went shopping the other day it did seem it was a lot quieter,” she said.

“People are staying home a little bit more, keeping out of the way.

There is definitely less foot traffic around.

“There were carparks everywhere on the weekend.

“A lot of businesses have pivoted over the last two years and have done their online platforms which is fantastic.

“A lot more businesses have delivery now, hopefully people are taking advantage of that.

“We just need to get out and support local business, if our reservations are cancelled then rebook it, we still need to support our local businesses.”

Meanwhile, the impact of the pandemic was evident to Mount Gambier Lakes Rotary Club president Rodney Summers at the club’s January Library market on Sunday.

“Numbers were down a bit, over half of what we usually have,” he said.

“People are worried, I presume it’s the fear factor of going out and being a bit concerned about the way the virus is in Mount Gambier at the moment.

“We have a lot of families and grandparents come out with their grandchildren usually and I noticed a lot of them did not turn up and if they did they were only there for a few minutes.”

Mr Summers said at this stage the club was still planning to hold a February market, but that would likely be the last for the season.

“We also find that some members who are in their later years are finding it difficult to come out work because of the COVID situation,” he said.

“They do their best, but even myself I am a bit reluctant to leave the house and mix with other people.

“We have been pretty safe in Mount Gambier over the last two years … but then all of a sudden we have been hit by this virus.”

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