New Zealand brings down Covid-19 economic wall

Borders still closed; businesses, schools to open in phases
Venkat Raman
Auckland, May 11, 2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing the move to Alert Level 2 today

New Zealand companies can open for businesses from 1159 pm on Wednesday (effectively from Thursday, May 14, 2020) as the country lowers its Alert Level to Two, following a favourable decline in the number of Covid-19 cases over the past three weeks.

Almost all commercial organisations such as shopping malls, retail stores, cinemas, gyms and playgrounds can be open from May 14, 2020.

Domestic travel will also be allowed.

Cafeteria and restaurants can also be open but must follow the ‘S’ formula: Seated, Separated and Single-Server. That would mean customers will be served at their tables by the same person who attends to them first.

Bars will be allowed to open May 21, 2020.

All offices and commercial establishments would be required to maintain social distancing standards and avoid close contacts. Beauty parlours, hair-dressing saloons and similar establishments must follow safety standards and Alert Level Two applicable to them.

Groups at these places, weddings, funerals and private parties will be limited to ten persons.

Bars, cafeteria and restaurants can have a maximum of 100 persons at a time.

Ms Ardern said that the ten-persons limit also apply to parties at home, stag and hen parties and to group bookings at restaurants or bars. People attending movies at theatres or a show must also observe social distancing.

“If our numbers continue to look good, we will begin to grow those numbers of social gatherings,” she said.

Battle won, but war on

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern thanked New Zealanders for their ‘sacrifices’ and support in complying with the rules of Alert Levels Four and Three but warned that Covid-19 was still ‘in the air’ and that the gains of the past six weeks should not be lost.

“We have left bars till last because they do pose the most risk, as we can see from South Korea that recently opened up there bars, only to close them again after one person created an outbreak of 40 people and 1500 tests. While we have put in place measures and expectations to make all hospitality as safe as possible, these few extra days really do give us a chance to lock in the data from level three and feel more secure that we are ready for this move,” she said, speaking at a media conference in Wellington.

She said that the three phases will see the reopening of most businesses over a period of ten days, which is “sooner than many other countries around the world.”

Early in, early out

“But that fits with our plan – go hard, go early – so that we can get our economy moving again sooner, and so we get the economic benefit of getting our health response right,” she said.

Ms Ardern surprised most sections of commerce and industry, including professional bodies such as the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA), which had expected that Alert Level 3 would have remained longer, as the Ministry of Health would have desired.

EMA Chief Executive Brett O’Riley said that survival of businesses and the livelihood of people will now be the focus for New Zealand.

“Only moving into Level 2 will provide the injection that is needed to truly start the recovery and get as many people working as possible and money flowing. We have been bold around containing Covid-19 and now let us show the same determination to get people working again,” he said.

The Numbers today

There were three new confirmed cases of Covid-19, taking the total number of confirmed and probable cases to 1497.

However, the number of people who have recovered from the ailment rose to 1386, accounting for Ms Ardern said that only 90 New Zealanders have, as on date, recorded as having the virus of whom only two are in hospital.

“None of that has been through luck, but hard work. While we have been battling the virus, we have also built up our health system specifically to act as a defence. We can now undertake up to 12,000 tests a day. 3.5% of the entire population has been tested and our testing rates are amongst the highest in the world per-capita, ahead of countries like Australia, the UK, Germany, Singapore and South Korea,” she said.

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