The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

COVID-19 lockdown: The uncertainty is decimating our sector.

Hospitality NZ has hit back at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s decision to extend Auckland’s Level 3 lockdown restrictions until 11.59pm on Sunday, August 30.

New Zealand largest city was expecting to move into Level 2 from August 27, however Ardern said in a press conference that due to the city’s large and expanding COVID-19 cluster, the restrictions would continue for the rest of the week.

“These extra four days are believed necessary for Auckland to be able to move to down a level and stay down,” she said. “We want confidence and certainty for everyone.”

From midnight on Sunday, Auckland will move to Level 2, allowing bars, pubs and clubs to reopen under the 3 S system after being closed for more than two weeks. The rest of New Zealand will remain at Level 2.

Hospitality NZ says the extension of Level 3 restrictions is hugely disappointing and frustrating for the hospitality industry.

“We supported the Government’s directive to stamp out COVID-19 when it reemerged in the Auckland community, however, it’s very frustrating for the regions outside of Auckland to still have to operate under Level 2,” says Hospitality NZ CEO, Julie White. “It’s still extremely restrictive for our operators.

“With this extension in Auckland, the hospitality sector will be in a state of carnage, because these lockdown measures will have a ripple effect across the entire country,” she says.

According to MBIE’s latest figures, Auckland’s domestic spending was already down 33% last week, compared with the same time last year and Food & Beverage spend was down 36.8%.

“Unless you have a food and beverage establishment that is fully set up for takeaway service, it’s very difficult to operate under Level 3, as you simply don’t generate enough income to sustain working seven days a week,” says White.

“And as for operating under Level 2, this is still quite prohibitive because abiding by the three S’s and limiting venues to 100 people, greatly reduces income.”

White says that operating under a cloud of such uncertainty with possibly yo-yoing between Alert Levels is not a sustainable solution.

“We are all doing our part to keep our fellow Kiwis safe, but the Government’s decision still leaves great uncertainty.

“We cannot continue to go up and down Alert Levels and in and out of lockdown. The uncertainty is decimating our sector,” she says.

“These businesses need time to prepare stock, adjust rosters and have grappled with changing restrictions at each Alert Level. We need some solace.”

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