A video of a deserted shopping centre has captured the financial hardship faced by thousands of Victorian businesses as they struggle to stay afloat amid tough restrictions.
Trish Laban visited the eerily quiet and empty centre at Karingal in Frankston, Melbourne, on Wednesday.
Frankston is just one of the many Melbourne suburbs that are currently trapped in Stage Four lockdowns, with local businesses forced to close their doors.
Footage showed a nearly deserted Karingal centre with most of the lights turned off, with staffers left with little reason to turn them back on.
Shuttered store after shuttered store hide in the darkness with notices taped to the front entrances.
‘This used to be Tax Lotto, that’s completely shut down now,’ Ms Laban says.
‘This was Rockman’s, they’re closed down. This was Millers, they’re closed down.’
A lone shopper sits on the ground of the now emptied hub in the shopping centre.
Only a Gloria Jeans, Woolworths and bank appear to be open.
‘It’s just a surreal experience to come shopping now and see everything closed,’ Ms Laban said.
Ms Laban told Daily Mail Australia she was devastated at the number of stores that had closed.
‘Other than groceries and pharmacy I’ve had to switch to online shopping with deliveries and click n collect and the deliveries are a bit hit and miss,’ she said.
Ms Laban posted the video to YouTube where shoppers commented it was a similar experience in regional Victoria, which is currently locked in Stage Three restrictions.
‘It is very surreal for those not in Melbourne,’ one person said.
‘I’m in regional Victoria and it’s bad enough down here. I hope that the businesses that have been shut are able to reopen.’
The video was released following revelations of the devastating impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on the state.
A $6.5billion deficit was reported for the 2019 to 2020 financial year.
A $4billion underspend was also announced on infrastructure while state revenue plunged by $1.3billion.
Employment figures showed that 73,000 jobs were also lost between August and September.
Treasurer Tim Pallas has warned the rate of unemployment will only get worse.
‘I suspect we’re not yet at the worst of the economic event,’ he said.
‘I think we’ve still got a month or two to go, but I’m reasonably confident that we’ll see — having looked at how the other states have responded to this — a reasonably confident rebound.’
Melburnians are currently waiting on tenterhooks to see which of the hated Stage Four lockdown restrictions will be lifted on Sunday, after weeks of single or low double-digit infections.
On Friday, the state recorded just two new coronavirus cases – its lowest number since June 9.
But Premier Daniel Andrews has admitted it was unlikely big steps would be taken out of lockdown as the state’s second wave of COVID-19 was proving to be ‘stubborn’.
Speaking on Friday, he alluded to the easing of ‘social’ restrictions instead of economic ones.
Instead restrictions are likely to be slowly eased with the five kilometres travel limit and outdoor dining among the rules likely to be eased.
Though Mr Pallas said it was crucial not to ease restrictions too quickly and undo the hard work of Victorians.
‘We need not be so obsessed about debt that we fail to remember our principle obligation is to the wellbeing of Victorians and use our balance sheet and our capacity to protect them.’
Epidemiologist James McCaw added an early rollback to restrictions would increase the risk of transmission.
He believes pubs should remain closed a little while longer still.
‘We can’t afford to have uncontrolled wide-scale mixing with strangers in social settings in which virus transmission is a risk. We do have to be very cautious about things like that,’ he said.