Saturday, November 27

Hopes pinned on government announcement amid Tier 2 warnings will be different

The government will decide today whether restrictions for regions outside Auckland will be relaxed.

Man in restaurant wearing a mask to protect himself against Covid-19.

Public health experts say ‘level 2 plus’ should have stricter rules, such as the use of masks in all indoor settings outside the home
Photo: 123RF

So far no cases related to the current outbreak have been detected outside of Auckland or Wellington.

The most recent case in the capital was announced on Friday.

For Mt Hutt Ski Area Manager James McKenzie, the snowy peaks are almost within reach.

He said the team was “eager to get back on the slopes.”

“Morale is pretty good, because we can still see that there is a lot of snow on the mountain,” he said.

“There is still a long season and many good times ahead.”

McKenzie said staff are prepared for socially distancing snow activities once the snow seekers return.

“As people get closer to the mountain, we will make sure everyone is scanning their Covid tracking app.

“Generally when people are skiing they still have some kind of face covering, but we will make sure that is the case when there are people in line.

“It’s really about making sure, where people hang out, that they cover their faces.”

Mt hutt

Mt Hutt Ski Area Manager James McKenzie says staff will make sure people wear masks and socially distance themselves. Stock Photo
Photo: supplied

Paul Anderson, CEO of NZ Ski, which operates Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Mt Hutt, said he had high expectations ahead of today’s announcement.

“It is very important for our communities to be able to go out and enjoy the mountains.

“We really feel sorry for those in Auckland who won’t be able to travel and be with us. But for those in the South Island, I think there would be a high level of frustration if we couldn’t go back to level 2 and get back to doing what we love.”

The government will announce this afternoon if an alert level change is anticipated for areas outside Auckland, and when it will take effect.

But public health experts warn that it will not be level 2 as we know it.

Professor Nick Wilson said that a “level 2 plus” needed to have stricter rules.

“That includes requirements for the use of masks in all indoor environments outside the home and better QR code scanning requirements,” he said.

“Ideally, we would keep some of the super spread environments, like bars and nightclubs, closed until there is a safer time to lower alert levels.”

But Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult said even that would be a step up from current restrictions.

“At this stage, anything is better than where we are at the moment.

“Level 3 is interesting: you can go buy a cup of coffee and a takeout, but you can’t do much else.

“We need something that will get most of the businesses in the district up and running again.”

Jim Boult, Mayor of the Queenstown Lakes District

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult said the community believes the time is right to lower alert levels.
Photo: RNZ / Belinda McCammon

Boult said local sentiment was growing and the community believed it was time for a change.

“It has been three weeks since this outbreak was announced and there have been no cases in the South Island.

“And, if there was a case here, I’m sure we would know about it, or it would have been released by now.

“Certainly the feeling here is that we are ready to see some activity beyond level 3.”

Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Leeann Watson said businesses will do whatever it takes to reopen safely.

“We have to keep in mind that some of our requirements often provide more responsibility for the business and more responsibility for the business.

“So we need to be aware of that because often what comes with that level of responsibility are additional costs as well.”

A change to an alert level 2.5, and hopefully a return to school, would ease the burden on companies and their staff, he said.

“At alert level 3, although we have several open businesses, we must bear in mind that for those who have school-age children and schools are still closed, this creates real problems for people to return to their workplaces.”

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