Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has extended the level 2.5 restrictions Auckland is facing by at least another week after Covid-19 clusters continue to appear throughout the city.
Kiwis in Auckland have already spent 14 days in the loosened restrictions, after the city was dropped back to Level 3 in [August], and Ardern said the cabinet is looking to return to normalcy in a more sustained way, rather than rushing.
“While our aim is to speedily move down alert levels safely, we also need to be focused on the future,” Ardern said.
“Advice put to us today suggests we should be cautious about moving to Level 1 immediately, and that it would be prudent to continue to monitor case numbers for a short while longer.
The cabinet will review the current restrictions at a meeting on September 21, with the vision that any change in crisis level would be activated on the September 23.
And the remainder of the country will stay in Level 2 until the 21st, when it will move to Level 1, assuming there are no further outbreaks.
Keeping Auckland at this level for at least another 10 days will cost businesses around $10 million, according to business association Heart of the City, which called for a coordinated response to supporting the city’s recovery.
“Seriously impacted businesses can’t be left to simply go it alone,” Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said.
“With the wage subsidy coming to an end and customers simply not here in sufficient numbers because of border closures, studying and working from home, quick and coordinated action is needed.”
According to Beck, a clear and sustainable plan to boost economic recovery and business confidence is needed, and she is calling on local and central government to work with urgency to make this a reality.
Auckland Business Chamber CEO Michael Barnett said the government isn’t being clear on the criteria as to when the lockdown could be lifted, just that it will decide based on its own arbitrary requirements, putting struggling businesses in a difficult spot.
“What is it that we’re waiting for? No cases for an unknown number of days? An acceleration of testing? What are they going to do in this extra week? Tell us, rather than prolonging the agony and anxiety,” Barnett said.
“Signalling an intention to review the situation again in a week does not give certainty or ability to plan… And don’t think the bounce in consumer spending is a panacea for lifting an economy that is still stalled with some sectors and businesses likely to fail.”