13 Nov 2020

Covid-19: More pain for Auckland CBD as workers stay home

From Checkpoint, 5:20 pm on 13 November 2020

The ripple effect of Auckland's latest Covid-19 community case created more pain for CBD businesses today.

A number of business owners are still recovering from consecutive lockdowns this year, and say they will not survive another

Aucklanders have also expressed concern over what they perceive as a lax response to the new community case.

CBD workers were told to stay away from the central city on Friday after revelations Thursday's new case - which was today linked genomically to the Defence Force cluster - visited several restaurants and shops before testing positive.

The small number of business owners who were trading on Friday told Checkpoint they simply could not survive many more such quiet days.

"Christmas is coming… there's no people in town, the costs are still going on us, so we're really worried about it," one shop owner said. 

Ben Handy works on High St, not far from the new Covid-19 case's workplace. He was at the pop-up High St testing station awaiting a swab, after eating at a restaurant visited by the infected woman who tested positive on Thursday. 

He told Checkpoint he was not convinced the system was working, and said getting a test had not been so easy.

"It's been a little bit of a challenge. This morning we got up really early and went to Madden St, which is a drive through, at 8.30am ... not a sausage, no-one there, no signage. I think there were three people mulling around."

He knew the pop-up testing was available on High St, but said it was disappointing it was so challenging to find a testing centre that had health workers available. 

His concerns were echoed by another man on Queen St, who said he is visiting Auckland and staying near 106 Vincent St, where the latest positive case lives.

Checkpoint yesterday reported people were coming and going from the apartment building, completely unaware of the instructions to isolate. 

The man who spoke to Checkpoint said on Friday it appeared things had barely improved.

"I'm staying in a range of about 100m of where the case was, so I felt quite uncomfortable about that and I did witness a large amount of people in the foyer, which I didn't think was very good." 

On High St, Ben Handy said he was feeling frustrated about the new Covid-19 scare. 

"A little… pissed off that this has happened - there's a threat of going into level 3 or level 2 again and life just shuts down as we know it, and life is undesirable, annoying to be honest." 

The vast majority of businesses were closed in the CBD on Friday. Two places the woman with Covid-19 visited - the Red Pig Restaurant on Kitchener St and the Gateau House on Queen St - were both shut. 

Smith and Caughey's was operating as normal, as was Starbucks on Queen St, but staff there would not talk when approached for comment.

On Lorne St, not far from High St, a bakery owner said it was a hard time before Covid-19, but now it was even harder. His neighbours felt the same. 

A convenience store worker on Shortland St was confused why the city was so quiet, and was told by others about the Covid-19 news. 

Business owners in the CBD were scared for both personal health, but also the health of their livelihoods.

"I'm wearing a mask right now but yesterday I didn't. I'm terrified actually because if there are more cases in the future it means our whole city may be locked down again." 

Members of the public who were in the CBD expressed their frustration at the news of the new Covid-19 case, but there was a sense of relief in the afternoon that another lockdown has not happened. 

The CBD will reopen on Saturday and public events can go ahead.

That is no doubt a welcome announcement for central city businesses, who continue to fear another lockdown could force them to shut up shop for good.