“Bitter disappointment” is how some describe the reaction to New Zealand staying at the red light setting in the Covid traffic light system.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement in a post-cabinet meeting on Monday afternoon.
While cases were dropping in Auckland, Wellington and Tairāwhiti others regions like Canterbury, Northland and Waikato were not experiencing the same drop. Hospitalisations in some district health board regions were not expected to peak until mid-to-late-April.
“So for now, New Zealand will remain at red,” says the Prime Minister.
“I know there is an eagerness to move to orange, but we are still frankly amid an outbreak and there is still pressure across our hospital network.
“Public health advice is that now is not the time to ease restrictions and drop to orange.”
Tauranga Business Chamber CEO Matt Cowley says most businesses were hoping for a decision that the Bay of Plenty region would be in orange by the Easter break.
“It’s been a mentally straining start to the year and I’m sure plenty of Kiwis would want to travel domestically for a change of scene.
“But the red setting sends a signal that people probably shouldn’t travel, and that entertainment venues and attractions may not be operating as they should be.
“A change to orange would have boosted those sectors hurting the most from the Government’s restrictions.”
Matt says CBDs across the country are also continuing to struggle as corporates are requiring their staff to work from home under red setting.
He says there is a shifting mood that people should be empowered to self-manage their own risks.
“Customers are managing their own risks by avoiding high-risk situations, and employers are working with individual staff who have higher risks.”
The decision to stay at the red traffic light level will come as a bitter disappointment for the hospitality industry which continues to struggle under the current restrictions, says Restaurant Association NZ’s CEO Marisa Bidois.
“Patronage continues to be down on previous years and whilst this is starting to pick up, the decision to stay in red will not do much to help consumer confidence,” says Marisa.
The March member feedback survey from the association indicated that businesses continue to struggle with 90 per cent of respondents saying their revenue is down on 2021 with the average revenue decrease sitting at 34 per cent.
“We are not public health experts, however the seated and separated rule is incredibly challenging for venues.
“Hospitality venues are places where people want to socialise with others, particularly in bars and clubs so the enforcement of this rule will continue to be a sizeable issue for the industry.
“Once again, we continue to advocate for financial support in the form of a wage subsidy for our businesses who are facing significantly reduced patronage as a result of this outbreak.
“As well as more financial support, we would also like to see the Government outline a tangible vision for the recovery of our sector, which clearly sets out the indicators required for a move to orange,” says Marisa.
“We believe this should include a change of rhetoric from one of fear to one of hope and incentives, such as a subsidised dining scheme to get people back out and stimulating the economy.”