Rebecca’s new boutique was open just four days, and then ‘wham bam, we’re locked down’


When Rebecca Beaumont opened the doors to her new boutique in Katherine at the start of the month, business was looking bright.

Key points:

  • Northern Territory's government has warned the Katherine lockdown could continue beyond December 4

  • Businesses in the town say they are struggling to survive without revenue to pay bills

  • Commonwealth and NT governments are offering financial support to affected businesses

"It was a really good vibe," she said of the first four days she was able to trade.

"And then, all of a sudden, wham bam, thank you, ma'am — we're locked down."

After the discovery of a single COVID-19 case in the town, the situation has only gotten worse.

The outbreak has grown to 51 people, and the lockdown that was initially supposed to last just three days, has turned into a second lockdown that could continue until at least December 4.

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"By [then], we're hitting on 19 days of lockdown — that's effectively three weeks," Ms Beaumont said.

"That's a long time for a small town like this to be trying to work out how we're going to be getting through this."

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The Chief Minister has warned the restrictions could last even longer, after a COVID-positive woman escaped the hard lockdown in nearby Binjari and spent several hours in Katherine yesterday while infectious.

"To hear that it could be going on much longer than the three weeks is heartbreaking," Ms Beaumont said.

Like many other Katherine businesses categorised as non-essential, she has had to continue paying rent and other bills without a revenue stream.

Some businesses affected by the lockdown can access an immediate $1,000 "lockdown payment" from the Northern Territory government

"It's better than nothing but, realistically, it's not going to make that much of a difference because it's not even a week's rent for a lot of places," Ms Beaumont said.

Katherine's only major supermarket has had to shut because many of its team members were ordered to isolate.(ABC New: Jesse Thompson)

During this month's lockdowns, the Northern Territory government has issued more than 170 payments to businesses, with $150,000 already paid out so far.

However, Joey Buckerfield, who owns Big Rivers Weed Management, said he had been unable to access the lockdown payment because he did not meet the scheme's eligibility criteria.

The payment is only available to businesses with a turnover of more than $75,000 per year, something he has been unable to prove because he has only been operating for seven months.

"They couldn't show discretion because they have to maintain the integrity of the program and administer it in accordance with the terms and conditions, which is fine," he said.

"But I would like to see the program extended to include small businesses that haven't been trading for more than 12 months, because it is a critical period for us."

Mass testing is underway in Katherine as postive wastewater results persist in the town.(ABC Nes: Michael Franchi)

The NT Chamber of Commerce said it had been in discussions with the Territory government about increasing the level of financial support to what was offered in earlier stages of the pandemic.

"We're not in a position to say exactly what the quantity would be," the chamber's chief executive Greg Ireland said.

"However, it would really be intended to be based on the size of the business and the cost base it's working with."

Small Business Minister Paul Kirby said the government would continue talking with businesses "to determine the best ways to support them".

The Commonwealth is also offering separate COVID-19 Disaster Payments worth up to $750 per week for people who have lost more than 20 hours of work.

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news



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