28 Jan 2022

Christchurch department store closes due to Omicron risk

5:00 pm on 28 January 2022

Christchurch's Ballantynes department store has closed for three days because of the Covid-19 risk, as the city braces for spread of the highly-transmissable Omicron variant.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND, JANUARY 21, 2020: View of a street in center of Christchurch, New Zealand

Cashel Mall, Christchurch CBD Photo: 123RF

While the Cashel Mall store is not a location of interest, Ballantynes has shut until Monday because of the risk of having thousands of shoppers in the store during a sale over the weekend.

Ballantynes chief executive Maria O'Halloran said she made the decision after four new cases of coronavirus emerged in Christchurch.

"Like other events that have been sadly cancelled throughout the country, I don't want to put any risk to the public and our team should there be cases in our environment over the next few days, with thousands of people in the store," she said.

"The variant hasn't been confirmed, however, out of an abundance of caution we have proactively moved to this step."

Two of the four people with the virus are from the same household.

Health officials are investigating any links to previous cases and have listed a Waltham pharmacy and Christchurch Airport as locations of interest.

While she understood the move could rattle business confidence in the CBD, O'Halloran said Ballantynes' closure was temporary.

"This is a decision we have to make based on the numbers that we attract. I'm sure they would understand that they would not want to see an outbreak in cases in the CBD. If we can do our part to mitigate that, we will," she said.

O'Halloran said she had not calculated the estimated cost to the business of closing the Christchurch store over the sale weekend.

Ballantynes made the announcement to customers in a statement on Thursday night.

"Due to the evolving nature of community cases of Covid-19 in Christchurch, it is with heavy hearts we announce that we have made the decision to cancel the instore availability of The Sale in our Christchurch store," the statement said.

"The Sale is a significant event on the Canterbury calendar and we appreciate that this will cause disappointment, however, we have made this decision with the safety of our Ballantynes staff and community in mind."

Ballantyne's Timaru store will open as usual, but staff will closely monitor the number of customers in the shop.

Ferry Road Pharmacy has twice been listed as a location of interest, but it is not linked to a suspected Omicron case at this stage.

Anyone who visited the pharmacy on January 24 between 3:30pm-4:00pm and January 27 between 8:45am-8:55am should monitor themselves for Covid-19 symptoms for 10 days.

Christchurch Airport was earlier listed as a location of interest on January 24 between 9:10am-9:40am and 5:00-5:30pm.

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