7 September 2021

Southland drops to alert level 2 as of Wednesday

The move to alert level 2 is good news for families like the Rayners of Invercargill.

Mum Tania was helping Connor, 13, and Addison, 9, with their school work during the two weeks of alert level 4, while Gerald continued his work in the finance industry.

Tania was at work on Monday, setting up the store at her retail job, while Gerald juggled the schooling with his work as a personal business manager.

“I feel for those families who had an essential worker from day one,” he said.

With the kids on their devices in the lounge room, a few feet from Gerald’s double-monitor set-up, there were a few moments when the internet was stretched.

“The biggest hassle is when everyone is on Netflix and YouTube, you’re trying to talk to clients when the dog’s going off,” he said.

Connor was a bit more of an independent learner than his younger sister, who was “dying” to get back to school, Gerald said, but both kids were hoping for an end to lockdown.

“They’re hoping they can get out [of lockdown] this week, but if we’re back in I dare say there will be some tantrums.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced all of New Zealand outside of Auckland will move to level 2 at midnight on Tuesday, while Auckland will stay at level 4 until at least next Tuesday.

She also introduced face coverings and 2 metre physical distancing to level 2 restrictions for large indoor facilities like gyms and libraries. A 50-person cap was set for hospitality and event venues while outdoor spaces can have up to 100 people.

Invercargill Licensing Trust chief executive Chris Ramsay hoped there was pent-up demand for people wanting a night out.

However, a 50-person cap per-venue was tough, he said.

“This is not an alert level that makes ILT profitable, but it does allow us to trade again.”

The previous level 2 restrictions allowed 100 people into venues, but now it only allowed 50, which Ramsay said made life “incredibly difficult” for all hospitality businesses.

All Trust venues would open and operate with full staff, Ramsay said.

Ramsay asked all customers to be patient, and to follow the rules.

Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sheree Carey wanted more certainty from the Government, particularly so the events industry could plan further than one week ahead.

“Sometimes you just wish they’d go ‘you’re in level 2 to the end of the year’.”

Professional service businesses had been contacting the chamber in the past few days, asking what alert levels would mean in a large office space such as a law firm or accountants’, Carey said.

Carey was also concerned about mask requirements for retail businesses, and the health and safety requirements of checking customers were masked and had signed in.

“You just hope everyone plays by the rules and respects the rules.”

Cafes and bars would struggle with customers having to be seated, she said.

“At least we’re going down a level, it doesn’t feel like we’re going down, but at least we can go outside.”

Economist Cameron Bagrie​ said social distancing “will go right to the heart of productivity”, for a lot of businesses.

His main concern was supply issues bought on by level 4 in Auckland.

However, primary industries would continue to boost Southland’s economy, he said.

“The good news is Southland was always better placed [for lockdown] because of the rural sector.”

All regions would get a boost from the alert level change, “but it’s not a game-changer”, he said.

“It’s a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Fiordland Business Association chair Nathan Benfell expected people to still be cautious, and believed the alert level change would not make a huge difference for accommodation businesses.

Published by The Southland Times – 6 September 2021.