24 Aug 2021

Businesses rue narrow criteria for opening in lockdown

11:46 am on 24 August 2021

Employers say lessons were not learned from the first lockdown and more businesses such as manufacturers should be operating.

Sign that reads 'Sorry, We are closed' hanging in a shop front in Central Auckland during Lockdown Level 3.

Many companies can operate safely and have robust health and safety protocols, a business head says. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Employers and Manufacturers' Association chief executive Brett O'Riley.

Brett O'Riley. Photo: Supplied

Brett O'Riley from the Employers and Manufacturers Association told Morning Report there was a feeling of "groundhog day" in the business sector because lessons have not been learned from last year's experience.

He questions whether the settings are right and whether more businesses, including butchers, could be open.

"Let's determine who can open in alert level 4 so we at least minimise the damage to the economy and once we've got that right, we can have a good look at what timeframe for [opening for] everybody else."

O'Riley said the definition of essential businesses is too narrow, only covering the domestic economy.

For instance, it does not mention manufacturing at all and a lot of manufacturers are exporters with strong health and safety protocols.

"And that's something that we think we need to look at because we may have businesses that are not operating at the moment and they could be and that's generating money for the economy and also their workers."

Leeann Watson from the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce welcomed the government's support packages for businesses covering wages and some costs.

However, businesses were still facing many other costs.

Rather than the government offering other support she would prefer that it explore which sectors and businesses can open safely in both levels 3 and 4.

Many companies can operate safely and have robust health and safety protocols.

"So we need to be able to look at how we can continue to operate in those various alert levels by continuing to look at options to mitigate some of the risk of both snot only the economic impact but also the social impact of being in lockdown for a longer period of time."

Watson said allowing more businesses to open could minimise the economic and social impact of the extended lockdown.

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