After nearly three months in lockdown, Auckland business owners are breathing a sigh of relief.
The cabinet has decided, in principle, to move the Super City to alert level 3, step 2, at 11:59 p.m. next Tuesday.
It means that shops, museums and libraries can reopen with the use of masks and social distancing, and the limit for outdoor gatherings will be increased to 25.
Ponsonby’s Shellshock Jewelery owner Merete Molving said she was crazy about the decision.
“Absolutely excited. I can’t wait. I think we’ve done really well in Auckland, but I can’t wait to get back in business,” she said.
In step 2, clients must keep a distance of 2 meters, and staff and clients must wear face covers.
Molving said that creates some anxiety, but trusts clients to use common sense.
“I’m a little worried about handling it, a little afraid to get close to people if they get too close, but I think most people really know the rules, and I think people will naturally respect them,” she said.
If people see that the store is really full, potential customers will steer clear, he said.
“We may have to extend business hours before Christmas to allow people to enter a less busy retail environment.”
The government announcement has sparked mixed emotions from Chambers Linen & Gifts owner Erin Santoro.
Santoro said she was excited to welcome customers, but was equally nervous about operating as community cases of Covid-19 continue to rise.
“It’s really hard, from a retail perspective, to know if they’re going to hit us and freak out and empty us, or are people going to be cautious and wait? We just don’t do it. I know what to expect.” said.
He said they would install a Perspex screen to separate customers from cashiers and cut services like gift wrapping.
Santoro said he still had some reservations about how to enforce the new rules.
“It’s a bit difficult, we are a small company, so we work with a small team. We cannot afford to put an additional person to stand by the door and manage exactly who comes in and out,” he said.
“We’re just going to have to do the best we can.”
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said he welcomed the announcement that the city would move to Step 2.
“The government has the difficult task of balancing the need to contain the spread of Covid-19 to prevent it from overwhelming our hospital system with the need to maintain continued public compliance with restrictions,” Goff said.
“He is also aware of the impact of the continued lockdown on jobs, businesses, and general well-being,” he said.
“By next Tuesday, more than 90 per cent of eligible people at Auckland’s three district health boards will likely have received their first vaccination, and fully vaccinated people have already reached 80 per cent in Auckland.”
Goff said it remains “critically important” that people follow the protocols and rules that were designed to keep them safe and contain the spread of the virus.