29 Nov 2021

Covid-19: Cabinet meets today to decide regions' traffic light settings

3:16 pm on 29 November 2021

Cabinet will decide today which regions go into the most restrictive 'red' setting under the Covid-19 traffic light system and which start at orange.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The country will move into the new Covid-19 protection framework on Friday, with some businesses having to make tough decisions about whether they enforce the 'no jab, no entry' policy, or allow entry to everybody and suffer the consequences.

Cabinet will consider vaccination rates and case numbers within district health boards when deciding the settings today. The lowest, green, has already ruled out for now, and Auckland is to start off in red.

Whatever setting regions ends up with, one thing is certain - unless people are fully vaccinated and have a vaccination certificate they will be limited in where they can go.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley had a pretty good idea which colour Bay of Plenty would be.

"Given the number of cases already in the bay and our double-jab rate is pretty low, I am hopeful for orange but I am predicting red."

Matt Cowley said being able to lift the lid on how many punters they would be allowed to let through the door would be welcomed by bars and restaurants forced to hobble along with strict limits for the last three months.

But he said the requirement for vaccines was also leaving some with some difficult choices to make.

He gave the example of a restaurant where the chef was unvaccinated and owners had to decide whether to continue with limited capacity or let their chef go.

"I think they are going with requiring a vaccine pass just because of the pure economics of hopefully making more money over the bar rather than over the kitchen. They can always just shift to deep fried food. But it's not ideal and they will lose some customers over it."

On the other side of the North Island, New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom said with his region still up to three weeks away from 90 percent double-vaxxed he was expecting to start at a red setting.

Even with checks on the door to make sure people had their vaccine certificates, at red, hospitality would still be limited to no more than 100 people.

Nevertheless, Holdom said bars and restaurants were looking forward to operating without fear of the rug being pulled out from under them and a lockdown being reinstated.

"I think our businesses have taken a hit and they'll be raring to go and and to be able to put more customers in and and generate that cash flow because a lot of them, the working capital has taken a hit."

A single case revealed in Hawke's Bay on Sunday left Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst feeling uncertain about which colour her region would be in.

But she said the wineries and other attractions that drew in so many at this time of the year were ready to thrive under the new system, even if it meant having to employ more door staff to check peoples vaccine passports.

"There's going to be extra staff to manage and it is going to be more challenging but they're resilient and they're working incredibly hard."

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce head Pete Coldwell picked orange for the entire South Island but said many of his members were understandably nervous about the new approach to keeping us safe.

There had been comments that the system was not completely clear because it was different to alert levels. "It's going to take a little bit of time for that to bed in I think."

Coldwell hoped businesses were able to fine tune their systems in the next few weeks before the Sounds were over-run with holiday makers.

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