Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the government's 3-step plan for reopening businesses after the COVID-19 shutdown. He said he hoped that all states and territories could move to Stage 3, the least restrictive stage, by July. However, states and territories have been given autonomy about the timeline under which to implement the guidelines.
The announcement provides some hope for the Australian food sector which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, although hospitality business owners are concerned that the tight restrictions may still make it uneconomical to open their doors regardless of the looser restrictions.
Under Stage 1, cafes and restaurants are allowed to open and seat up to 10 patrons at any one time, provided they can ensure four square metres of space per person. Food courts will remain closed for seated patrons, and bars and clubs are not permitted to open.
Stage 2 has similar rules, however hospitality businesses may set up to 20 patrons at any one time. Food courts, bars and clubs will remain closed.
Stage 3 is not entirely finalised yet and will “become clearer as we move through the first two steps” according to the Prime Minister, but indicates that up to 100 patrons can be seated at any one time. At Stage 3, bars, clubs and food courts will be permitted to open.
The announcement prompted Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to permit hospitality businesses to reopen earlier than the June date announced earlier this week. She confirmed that the state will move to Stage 1 next week, with some parts of the outback that have been unaffected by the coronavirus moving straight to Stage 2 with up to 20 patrons permitted in restaurants and pubs in those areas. If all goes according to plan, Premier Palaszczuk hopes to move the entire state to Stage 2 by June 13th.
South Australia has confirmed it will move to Stage 1 on May 11th and Tasmania will move on May 18th. The premiers of New South Wales and Victoria - the two states that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic - have stated that they’re not yet ready to move to Stage 1 and have given no indication of when they’ll be able to release a date for this.
The Northern Territory, ACT and Western Australia have already started lifting some restrictions on food businesses and are yet to announce how they will comply with the 3-step plan.
If you are considering starting a food business in Australia, here is what you need to know about food classifications, food licences and food safety requirements.