20 Apr 2020

Covid-19 lockdown extension: How New Zealand industries, politicians and public reacted

8:01 pm on 20 April 2020

New Zealanders largely welcomed the government's decision to move to level 3 next week, but there has been some criticism of extending level 4 until then.

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Photo: 123RF

Organisations representing New Zealanders in many types of work also called for greater clarity of the rules, including what they can do this week to prepare for level 3, and whether those at high risk would be supported to stay home.

This is some of the reaction so far.


Educators have called on the government to release the health risk information it has used to decide that schools can reopen under level 3.

NZEI Te Riu Roa said the union had asked the Ministry of Education to release the full public health risk assessment that its guidelines to the sector were based on so that educators could be better informed.

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said today that Covid-19 did not affect children and teenagers as much as others. They had lower infection rates, were not as unwell if they did get the virus compared to other age groups, and did not tend to pass the virus on to adults.

The Early Childhood Council also wanted the Ministry of Health to show its working on carrier transmission in young children.

Its chief executive Peter Reynolds said the council would continue to call for centres to stay shut until level 2 until it had the assurances it needed.

"No one wants to become the next cluster and put communities or vulnerable family members at risk. We can't find the evidence that it's safe to open - and there are several reported cases of young children contracting the disease that are hard to ignore," he said.

"There's a huge amount of anxiety across the ECE community, who feel they're being forced to open their doors when it's not safe to do so."

The council was also concerned about a lack of detail from the Ministry of Education on how to keep bubbles of under-5's apart. "Do we put children in Zorbs?," Reynolds asked.

Both NZEI Te Riu Roa and Auckland Secondary Principals Association said it expected most children to still be learning from home.

National and ACT respond

National leader Simon Bridges said the extension of level 4 showed the government had not done the ground work to be ready to move to level 3 this week.

"New Zealand is being held back because the government has not used this time to ensure best practice of testing and tracing and the availability of PPE hasn't been at the standard it should have been.

National leader Simon Bridges speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament on April 09, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Photo: Pool / Getty Images

"The rate of testing for the first half of lockdown was low, work has only just begun on surveillance testing to confirm whether community transmission is occurring. Tracing is the biggest challenge and experts have identified major shortcomings in the methods being used by the government.

"This is a real shame as businesses will suffer further damage and that will lead to poor health outcomes as a result of the huge stress this will cause for a lot of people."

ACT leader David Seymour said New Zealand was spending another week in lockdown because the government could not do adequate contact tracing.

"Jacinda Ardern has said the Covid-19 transmission rate is now 0.48. So long as it's under 1, the virus is dying out. This shows the government has actually been far too aggressive, at great economic and social cost.

"The delay is really because the government has failed to bring its contact tracing abilities up to an adequate standard. It has nothing to do with extra certainty, because there's no indication that this decision could change if our test results deteriorate between now and Monday."

There now needed to be renewed focus on the sectors that remained severely restricted at level 3, he said.

"Sectors such as tourism, hospitality, some retail, and event centres will now bear the brunt of the cost for a wider public benefit. In these circumstances there is a stronger case for targeted support for those sectors which cannot operate even at alert level 3."


The Council of Trade Unions said it was important workers at higher risk of severe illness could stay at home and remain in their safe bubble under level 3.

Its president Richard Wagstaff said the government needed to provide workers and employers with clear advice on what a shift to level 3 meant for those at high risk.

"Working people need the following assurances; that people can easily self identify if they are high risk, that the essential worker subsidy is extended to cover all employees so that any employer can apply for it, and that employers provide for increased Covid-19 related sick leave," Wagstaff said.

"It is very important that no one is financially penalised for taking steps to prevent the spread of Covid-19. We all have our bit to do to assist in the eradication of Covid-19 including supporting those Kiwis who are at higher risk."


Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White said level 3 restrictions would be too limiting for many businesses to survive and the government needed to step up with sector-specific support, particularly with rent relief.

"Even for those that can operate during level 3, it is very unlikely that their revenue will cover costs like rent, and most are already carrying debts from losses they've been incurring since tourist numbers started dropping in January."

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Hospitality NZ says the wage subsidy isn't enough for many businesses to survive through level 3 Photo: 123RF

Those businesses that could operate under level 3 were doing their best to be ready, she said.

"It will take a big commitment from operators to pivot and put in place things like distribution systems and contactless payments. It will also take buy-in from staff - for example baristas might have to become delivery drivers - and it will take support from New Zealanders patronising their local businesses, or it simply won't be viable for most of these businesses to operate in these conditions."


Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Brett O'Riley said the move to level 3 struck a good balance between New Zealand's health and economy.

He said companies with international connections got an early start on crisis management and business continuity so were ready to go.

"For others, it's now a matter of nailing down their process to be most profitable with what they can do, and ensuring their plan to keep their people safe is watertight."

While manufacturers and construction workers would be pleased about the decision, the retail sector was disappointed at the restrictions under level 3. The retail sector must operate on a contactless basis.

"Many are confident they can manage with one in, one out policies and other management measures such as registration, and we hope the government is open to considering this," O'Riley said.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said the retail sector would struggle under level 3.

He told Checkpoint that online trading was often only a fraction of a retailer's normal trade and about a quarter of businesses were not capable of trading online.

Road Transport Forum

The Road Transport Forum said it was disappointed businesses had to wait another week before resuming under level 3.

Road freight truck squeezing through one lane bridge.

There will be many more vehicles on the road when level 3 kicks in Photo: RNZ Insight / Tracy Neal

Its chief executive Nick Leggett also said more clarity was needed on how businesses could plan on being under level 3, with the prime minister having said the situation would be reviewed again after two weeks in level 3.

"What happens then? Business preparation is important, particularly around receipt of goods for businesses to be able to open and managing staff numbers.

"Like many businesses, particularly the small and medium sized businesses, road freight transport has suffered under the alert level 4 lockdown.

"Some of those businesses may not recover and unfortunately that will mean hardship for the business owners and the workers they will have to let go. The longer the lockdown, the more businesses that will fold and the more people that will be left unemployed."

However, he said many forestry, wood processors, construction and manufacturing companies could resume under level 3 which "will mean a lot of freight moving".


The Forestry Owners Association said it supported the level 4 restrictions which deemed it a non-essential industry, but it was now time to get back to work.

Its president Phil Taylor said there had been a "collaborative process" to develop safety protocols right through the supply chain.

"The New Zealand timber processing industry has a whole month of virtually no production which it needs to catch up on."

"Some processors have already started producing for essential industries, such as making pallets for fruit exporters. But there will be thousands of work sites around New Zealand which are anxious for new timber supplies and construction workers keen to get back on the job and earning incomes as soon as they can."

Taylor said the association was seeking clarification from the government as to what work it could do in the next week to prepare for level 3.

The New Zealand public

How do New Zealanders feel about spending another week in lockdown? Checkpoint reporter Nita Blake-Persen asked locals in Auckland's Grey Lynn park.

The news was largely welcomed by New Zealanders on Twitter, with many saying it was a lightened-down version of level four and encouraging each other to stay safe and follow the rules.

Many also looked forward to takeaways.

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