Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Hospitality sector devastated Auckland to remain at level 3 under revised restrictions

The Government’s three-stage plan to slowly lift Covid restrictions leaves business out in the cold and could be a “final nail in the coffin” for some Auckland hospitality operators, industry groups say.

“A lot of hospitality operators are going to have a very sleepless night tonight,” Hospitality NZ chief executive Julie White said, adding that the decision to keep Auckland in level 4 would be the “final nail in the coffin” for Auckland hospitality operators.

The phased move down level 3 was “devastating” news for Auckland operators because it’s going to be at least three weeks before the hospitality sector in Auckland is able to trade.

“I am really concerned for the sector,” she said.

Auckland Business Chamber CEO, Michael Barnett said he was disappointed and frustrated that policymakers and politicians were “not listening to business” and their plea for a more balanced approach to the response.

“Extension of the wage subsidy for employees and the resurgence payment for employers to only partially offset weekly overheads does not cut it.

“If vaccination is the way out of restrictions, then government needs to enable businesses to implement the no jab no job regime, get access to saliva testing and do the right thing as the country’s biggest employer and get all your staff vaccinated at once.”

White said even though the gathering capacity limit for the rest of the country has been lifted, it’s still really hard to trade prosperously under a seated environment, especially when there is still no community cases in the south Island,” she said.

“[I’m] pretty sure they are going to have to make pretty hard decisions and it’s going to affect families,”

“I really feel for the operators,” White said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has promised a three-step plan to transition “safely and carefully” over the coming weeks.

“From 11.59pm Tuesday, Auckland will remain in alert level 3 but several key changes will occur. People will be able to connect with loved ones outdoors with no more than two households at a time, up to a maximum of 10 people; early childhood education will return for all; and people can move around Auckland for recreation such as beach visits and hunting,” Ardern said.

“Cabinet will review each step weekly to ensure it’s safe to move before confirming the next step. The wage subsidy will continue to be available.

Wage subsidy payments would continue while Auckland was at any stage of level 3.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said the country’s largest city is in pain and today’s announcement is hard news to take.

“Auckland is hurting. Hospitality is hurting.

“The Auckland hospitality industry has time and again been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and it is time that our government recognised this by providing financial relief that is specific and targeted to our sector,” Bidois said.

Two weeks ago, the association laid out an eight-point plan as part of the “Future of Hospitality Roadmap” to help the sector to reopen and recover but the plan hasn’t been implemented, she said.

“Whilst business owners are in the main supportive of the elimination strategy they do not support the blind eye that has been turned to their financial plight.

“Wage subsidy and resurgence support payments are not enough – our businesses are on the brink and something more must be done.

“Hospitality businesses continue to experience a disproportionate material impact on revenue as a direct result from the alert level guidelines,” Bidois said.

The Restaurant Association’s new Future of Hospitality Roadmap has been designed to help businesses get back on their feet, by focusing on reopening, recovery and sustainability.

More targeted support needed

Business groups have been agitating on behalf of thousands of small businesses for the wage subsidy to be continued under level 2as it is deemed uneconomic for some hospitality businesses to open for gatherings of less than 50 people.

“The ‘pathway for Auckland’ announced today did not confirm this,” said Tania Loveridge, head of advocacy and engagement at Heart of the City.

“Businesses need certainty and can’t keep waiting to hear what help might be made available at the next announcement. The mechanism exists and is simple to execute – it just needs a Government decision to do it.”

She noted that Auckland has faced 29 weeks of restrictions so far.

“These effects are cumulative and the long tail of Covid-19 is hurting many businesses across a range of sectors. Thousands of business owners, their staff and suppliers face an uncertain future as they head into the Christmas season.”

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