3 October 2021

Southland Leaders: Time to Get Out of Alert Level 2

Southland business leaders say it’s time for the region to move out of alert level 2 given the South Island hasn’t had a Covid-19 case for more than 320 days.

Many southern businesses are still losing money in alert level 2, particularly in the hospitality sector, and that needs to be reversed, while decent sized crowds should be allowed back to sporting events, the leaders say.

Auckland is at alert level 3 and the rest of the country is at alert level 2, with the settings to be reviewed by the Government on Monday.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has indicated any future alert level 1 would be different from previously suggesting it may include compulsory scanning at many places, a baseline level of mask use, particularly when accessing public spaces or on public transport, and proof of vaccination or negative Covid-19 tests when attending big events or popular sites.

Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sheree Carey agreed any future level 1 should include some restrictions.

“Given we haven’t had any Covid cases for more than 320 days we should be dropped down to a delta level 1, but with border restrictions in Auckland,” Carey said.

The worst thing would be for someone to leave Auckland and arrive in Southland with Covid-19 while Southlanders were “running around as normal” in level 1, she said.

“That would be a disaster, it would spread everywhere. So we need to be sure the restrictions around the Auckland border are well contained, and whatever our level 1 looks like, there should still be restrictions around mask wearing and signing in.”

Invercargill Licensing Trust chief executive Chris Ramsay believed Southland should be returned to alert level 1 as it was prior to the August lockdown.

The hospitality industry saw no reason why it couldn’t happen given all Covid cases had been in the North Island for nearly a year.

“The Government should be putting provisions in place to protect the areas they are concerned about, but to allow areas with a natural border, which the South Island has, to reopen and trade as normal.”

The trust’s staff in its bars and restaurants were bearing the brunt of the public’s frustrations at having to wear masks into its restaurants and bars under alert level 2, he said.

“The public are saying there hasn’t been a case of Covid in the South Island for nearly a year, why are you making us wear a mask, we are saying we are just following the rules,” Ramsay said.

SBS Bank chief executive Shaun Drylie saw no reason why life could not return to normal in the south, and that included attending Southland Stags rugby matches without caps on spectator numbers.

“When life is normal why not live normally?”

Invercargill’s Malloch McLean accounting firm chief executive John Schol said he would like to see a “level 1.5” to relax some rules and ease the pressure on the hospitality industry.

“They have to relax it enough so the majority of people can get on with their lives, but with essential protocols such as contact tracing and the wearing of masks.”

Invercargill’s BDO managing partner Tim Ward said it was really questionable if the level 2 guidelines were still needed in Southland given there had been no cases of Covid for a long time.

He wanted to know what a level 1.5 would look like given the importance of minimising the possibility of further lockdowns.

Published by Stuff.co.nz – 3 October 2021