24 Jan 2022

Covid-19: Omicron is here, but is hospitality ready?

From Morning Report, 6:07 am on 24 January 2022

New Zealanders everywhere are waking up this morning and seeing red.

It's a red traffic light for the whole country now, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has indicated the colour won't be changing for "some weeks".

But the PM also says the country is particularly well-placed to ride out the latest Covid wave.

The difference this time is that the vast majority of Kiwis have had at least two vaccine jabs and the government has been planning for Omicron's inevitable arrival, too. She acknowledges case numbers will be high.

Now it's up to Kiwis to prepare for their own encounter with Omicron sooner or later.

Probably sooner.

The chances of that happening could be roughly the same as a toss of the coin, according to Professor Michael Plank.

But as people scramble to get vaccinated following the Prime Minister's announcement, the clinical director of Auckland's vaccination programme, Anthony Jordan says staff are coping with the increased workload, however, it's a long road ahead. 

Meanwhile, in the entertainment business, it's all cancel culture, but not as we know it.

The sector has seen a tumble of cancelled gigs, concerts and festivals, because gatherings are now capped at 100 people if they  have vaccine passes and just 25 if they haven't. 

Festival One event organiser Graham Burt says the Christian festival had to be postponed just a week out.  

Industry insiders like Hospitality New Zealand's Julie White say there is still enough room for an enjoyable restaurant experience - like at your local coffee shop or restaurant.

Hospitality New Zealand board member Jeremy Smith spoke to Corin Dann about how the sector will handle Omicron.