28 Feb 2021

Level 3 lockdown 'absolutely devastating' for many Auckland businesses - Barnett

From Sunday Morning, 11:15 am on 28 February 2021

The head of the Auckland Business Chamber says the level 3 restrictions will be a devastating blow to businesses.

Central Auckland at 9am on the first morning of the latest level 3 lockdown.

Central Auckland at 9am on the first morning of the latest level 3 lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Robert Smith

Auckland will remain at level 3 for seven days, following two new Covid-19 community cases.

The rest of the country is at alert level 2.

Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said there will be many businesses in Auckland looking at their relationships with their landlords, their supply chains and their banks because of the uncertainty.

"I've got a number of concerns but I think the first one would have to be about the uncertainty that this is creating for businesses, the short timeframe for the lockdown and the wellbeing of business owners, employers, chief executives as they look to rearrange yet another week of uncertainty for them."

Barnett said the lockdown will be "absolutely devastating" for businesses that rely on tourism such as accommodation, food, hospitality and events.

Michael Barnett, CEO of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.

Michael Barnett Photo: RNZ Pacific/Christine Rovoi

"Today I look at the restaurants that had invested in food that's in fridges ready for today's client base, and again that will be lost.

"Many of these businesses who are in the food and beverage and hospitality - their businesses are fragile now, you know to get an eight hour, or whatever it was, notice that you're back into lockdown - this whole issue of uncertainty for them makes fragile businesses even more fragile."

Barnett said a large number of retail and hospitality businesses have already failed and it is likely there will be more.

During the 72 hour level 3 lockdown in Auckland earlier this month, most hospitality businesses in central Auckland reported that their earnings were down by 50 to 60 percent, he said.

"They can't operate like that."

But he said there are a significant number of businesses that will be able to operate and keep their employees working.

"So I think we're going to see two or three very different worlds over the next week."

Barnett said the latest lockdown shows how important it is for people to isolate if they are asked to.

"I really do see that this is going to be a big call-out to business leaders, community leaders, church leaders and families to be following the rule with no exceptions.

If people are told to self isolate they do not have to go to work, he said.

"And if I have a look at the resurgence package, if I have a look at the protection that is there for people if they're being tested and have to isolate and if I look at the subsidy - those are all about employees, they're all about protecting people.

"We need to be telling a story about that that makes it abundantly clear what's available for those groups."

The government is today set to release further details on how to apply for the latest wage subsidy.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the wage subsidy will available for the whole country and will be paid in a 14 day lump sum. He said businesses can receive both the wage subsidy scheme and the resurgence support payment.

Barnett said shutting Auckland down also has a huge impact on the rest of New Zealand.

This is an official government COVID-19 announcement.

From 28 February, the Auckland region moves to Covid-19 Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2. This is for a period of seven days. Further community cases of Covid-19 have been identified in the Auckland Region. If you are in Auckland, stay home where possible, and follow Alert Level 3 guidelines. This will stop the transmission of Covid-19 and save lives. For more information on the alert levels go to [https://covid19.govt.nz/ covid19.govt.nz].

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