After 102 days virus-free Auckland is heading back into level 3 lockdown after a number of Kiwis tested positive to Covid-19.
For the next three days, until midnight on Friday, Auckland will return to a locked down state – giving the government the time it needs to assess the situation and gather information.
The rest of New Zealand will be moved to level 2.
“We are asking people in Auckland to stay home and stop the spread,” said Dr Ashley Bloomfield, CEO of the Ministry of Health.
“At level 3 you are asked to stay at home in your bubble other than essential movements such as going to the supermarket or local recreation.”
Key services such as supermarkets, pharmacies and medical centers will remain open, and food delivery is still available.
Other retail stores, however, will need to shut their doors to the public in Auckland and can only sell online and provide contactless click and collect.
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said the return of lockdown is bad news for the retail sector.
“The retail sector has been struggling to recover from the effects of the earlier lockdowns, and spending since March is still down nearly 10 per cent,” Harford said.
“A further lockdown has the potential to be catastrophic for struggling businesses, and Retail NZ is hoping that the new lockdown will be lifted quickly once the full situation is known and managed.”
Harford, Dr Bloomfield and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stressed that there is no need for panic buying, as supermarkets will remain open and fully stocked.
Countdowns Auckland-wide are preparing for the switch to level 3, putting physical distancing measures into stores, limits on some products, queue controls and extra cleaning.
“We’d echo the Prime Minister’s comments that there is no need at all for anyone to stock up – we have plenty of food and supplies for everyone and we want everyone to shop as they usually would and consider others,” Countdown general manager of health and safety Kiri Hannifin said.
“We have done this before and we can do it again – look out for each other, be kind and stay safe.”
However, many businesses are frustrated by the sudden closure of retail in Auckland, according to Waikato Chamber of Commerce executive director Don Good.
According to Good, the government had 4 months to prepare for a resurgence and should have had a more clearly communicated plan ready, not bit by bit.
“We were only just starting to come back and rebuild, businesses are already on low reserves, low in confidence and now they have to look at the possibility of closing again if we move to alert level 3 or 4 [outside of Auckland],” Good said.
“The Government needs to be held to account with details released about how community transmission has occurred including any details managed isolation facilities.”