Confusion over how new Covid setting will work


Southern business owners remain mired in frustration and confusion about how the new orange traffic light setting will work in practice.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday the South Island would move into the orange traffic light setting from 11.59pm on Thursday.

Business owners and managers spoken to in central Dunedin were overwhelmingly feeling frustrated and confused about how the new approach would work, and what they would be required to do come Friday.

‘‘Do we still make sure people are checking in using QR codes, or does a vaccine pass login trump that?’’ an assistant at a cafe in George St asked.

Others said they had trouble finding and interpreting the regulations regarding staff and customers contracting Covid-19.

‘‘If I have a staff member who gets Covid, do they quarantine, or do I close my shop? What happens?’’ the manager of a clothing store asked.

‘‘People wander in and out of the shop. It’s not like a restaurant, where people are sitting down for a while, so do I check everyone who comes in for a minute? I feel frustrated by the lack of clarity,’’ he said.

George St in Dunedin. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Business owners and managers spoken to in central Dunedin were overwhelmingly feeling frustrated and confused about how the new approach would work, and what they would be required to do come Friday. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The feeling was similar in Queenstown, where Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes said people who owned or worked in customer-facing businesses had been trying to get their heads around the use of vaccine passes and the expectations for staff.

‘‘Obviously, it was going to depend on what colour we went to, and now we’ve been told we’ll be going to orange, but it’s fair to say it’s a mixed bag at the moment,’’ she said.

‘‘I think people are just trying to make the best of it.

Ruth Stokes. Photo: ODT
Ruth Stokes. Photo: ODT

‘‘We’ve got hotels saying they’re going to have to lock some doors, [and] bars and restaurants thinking they’re going to have to have another whole person on shifts to check things.

‘‘People aren’t quite sure about what to do.

‘‘If someone scans red, for example, what do we do? Where do we stand?

‘‘It’s all very well for the Government to say you can ring the police, but the reality will be dealing with it day in and day out.’’

‘‘One business described it rather accurately when they said ‘it’s a bit of a shambles, really’,’’ Ms Stokes said.

Further, Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced yesterday there would be a shift in business support under the new traffic light system, which had some businesses concerned, she said.

‘‘Previously, if Auckland, for example, was in Alert Level 3 or 4, but we weren’t, businesses affected here could still access support.

‘‘So if we go into orange, but Auckland is in red, it could be that we don’t get that support anymore.’’

A Dunedin City Council spokeswoman said the council did not yet have a plan for how its public facilities, such as libraries and pools, and its events would operate under the orange traffic light setting.

‘‘At this stage we are continuing to undertake risk assessments and work through Government and WorkSafe guidance to understand how the [council] and the city will operate under the new Covid-19 protection framework.’’

Council staff would provide information over the next few days, she said.

• For specific business advice on operating at the three traffic light levels go online to business.govt.nz

courtney.white@odt.co.nz

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