Companies say they want more financial support if New Zealand turns red

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave an update on traffic light settings today. Photo/Mark Mitchell

Business groups have said they need more financial support from the government if the country moves to stricter traffic light settings.

Today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the whole country would turn red within 24-48 hours in the event of a community outbreak of Omicron.

“We are also confirming today that when we have evidence of Omicron transmission in the community, we will not be using lockdowns, but the whole country will go red within 24-48 hours.”

Ardern said businesses could stay open during the red light following the pandemic protocol.

Viv Beck, Managing Director of the Heart of the City Business Group.  Photo/Alex Burton
Viv Beck, Managing Director of the Heart of the City Business Group. Photo/Alex Burton

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck welcomed the news of the confirmation that businesses were able to stay open during the Omicron outbreak, but the new variant will impact larger gatherings and financial support was necessary for the affected company.

“…Although a shift to red when Omicron hits the community will have a particular impact on sectors such as events, attractions, hotels, lodging and other close contact sectors with restrictions in place.

“It will impact downtown, so while we can be well prepared, it will be a worrying time for the same areas that have been hit time and time again,” she said.

“It was fundamental that there was sustained support for affected businesses, including access to low-cost, easy-to-repay money and targeted support that recognizes different levels of financial disadvantage.

“It is disappointing that financial support for businesses was not announced today.

“Business continuity planning is essential. The information that will be released early next week by the government is essential. We will do all we can to ensure that businesses have advice to help them during this time,” said said Beck.

The red setting would allow businesses to stay open and domestic travel to continue, but included mask-wearing and collection restrictions to help slow the spread of the virus and keep pressure on our healthcare system.

At Orange, people can continue to do their daily activities. There are restrictions to limit the spread of the virus and protect vulnerable people. But you can go to work, school, gyms, places of worship, restaurants, and many other places.

Most businesses can open without number restrictions if they choose to follow My Vaccine Pass requirements and only allow entry to people with My Vaccine Pass.

If they choose not to follow the My Vaccine Pass requirements, there will be limits on how many people can be in a location at one time.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said she was pleased with the news that orange is allowing businesses to open the number of vaccine passes without restriction.

But additional financial support was needed for the business if we were to move to tighter restrictions.

Marisa Bidois, General Manager of the Restaurant Association.  Photo / Provided
Marisa Bidois, General Manager of the Restaurant Association. Photo / Provided

“Going through a red light when Omicron reaches the community is concerning, especially if we only receive 24 hours notice.

“Any red light always presents restrictions on trade and the impact of this has been felt by our businesses recovering from two years of restricted trade.

“Now we are in the traffic light system, there is no more financial assistance offered to businesses and we are awaiting comments from the government on financial assistance to businesses which are closed following positive cases among their staff or as a result of exposure via a client.

“We know from the outbreak of Omicron in other countries that the spread of this variant has caused a great deal of uncertainty for businesses closing due to a lack of staff following exposure. We believe companies will need financial support to navigate through this new variant,” Bidois said.

Retail NZ managing director Greg Harford said retailers across the country were taking proactive steps to prepare for Omicron’s arrival in the community and asking Kiwis to understand that service levels could change in result.

“While the retail environment is relatively safe with the use of masks and QR codes for check-in, retailers across the country are preparing for Omicron and the impact it will have on their teams and service levels,” Harford said.

“Retail NZ urges Kiwis to understand that during an outbreak of Omicron, retailers’ service offerings may change. This could be due to limited staffing, opening hours limits and issues We call on Kiwis to buy normally, buy Nice and support the industry with great understanding.

“An outbreak of Omicron will affect us all, but retail teams will do their best to provide great products and service to customers while also being affected in their workplace and at home. We are all affected through the pandemic by being kind to the retail industry can help everyone a lot.”

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White said Northland hospitality and accommodation venues are welcoming Kiwis to the region with the switch to the orange traffic light system at midnight.

“The announcement of the move is great news and a welcome relief for businesses in the region which have been severely restricted until now.

“They did it particularly hard as they missed the usual influx of visitors from Auckland due to the sealed border.

“I spoke to our Northland Branch President John (Kojak) Maurice today and while he is delighted with the news, he points out that the companies have missed the real high point of their season and have need all the support we can get to help them get something back before winter,” White said.

“I encourage everyone, and especially Aucklanders, to get up there. With their long weekend only a week away, it would be great to see support for a region that has made it difficult .”

White also welcomes more clarity around the traffic light system – that there will be warnings before turning back to red, and that lockdowns will be an absolute last resort.

“But what is slightly concerning is the lack of rapid antigen test kits that are currently available.

“I know many more are on order, but there is a global shortage, and what we have seen overseas is that they are essential to maintain the workforce, in particular frontline staff, not just in hospitality, but across most industries and across the supply chain.

“Making sure businesses have an abundant supply will be crucial to keeping the economy going.”

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