Covid-19: Businesses surprised by ‘instant change’ in alert levels

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Aucklanders are free to mingle in large groups after the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a shift down down alert levels this morning.

The Occidental manager Patrick O'Leary

Manager of the Occidental bar on Vulcan Lane, Patrick O’Leary Photo: RNZ

While there’s relief on the streets, it’s overshadowed by some people’s belief the decision should have happened, or been announced, earlier.

The city moved to level 1 at midday, which was about 25 minutes after Ardern announced Cabinet’s decision at a media briefing – but hours after Cabinet made an in principle decision last night.

Auckland resident Louise Ingles thought the government could have made moves faster to ratify its decision.

“I think given that we’ve had no community cases it would have possibly been the decent thing to do, if they’d got the legislation through in time. Especially with the America’s Cup,” she said.

Hospitality businesses are expecting a busy weekend because of the day two races, but manager of the Occidental bar on Vulcan Lane, Patrick O’Leary, anticipated possible issues with staffing and supply.

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He said it was “quite frustrating” having a limited time to prepare for alert level 1.

“We were expecting it to be after the weekend so it was a bit of a surprise it was an instant change,” he said.

“We’ve got live music tonight but we had to tell them to change the setlist and what have you, because it was going to be alert level 2 so there’s no dancing. Now we have to go back and change all that again.”

He said about 30 – 40 percent more guests could fit in his bar under alert level 1 guidelines.

“I feel quite bad for some of those guys down on the waterfront because they’ve got bigger venues where they’re at limited capacity, and got 15 minutes notice they can have probably double the amount of people,” he said.

Others in the street variously described themselves as relieved, stoked, or “not too fussed” about the alert level change.

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Some, who had come from elsewhere in the country to watch the America’s Cup, were excited the racing village would be “in full swing”.

Ardern said waiting for further information – like more Covid-19 community testing results – was why Auckland did not shift alert levels on Thursday.

She hoped moving at midday “showed some confidence we are moving as fast as possible”.

All of the 15 cases from the February cluster are either in quarantine or recovered.

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