Relief at impending alert level change

A decision to move most of the country to Alert Level 3 next week has been greeted with relief by many in the South.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday announced all of New Zealand south of Auckland would move to Level 3 at 11.59pm on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden. File photo
Prime Minister Jacinda Arden
Auckland and Northland’s restrictions would be reviewed on Monday, but Ms Ardern signalled a possible two-week extension of their time at Level 4.

Yesterday, 70 new community cases of Covid-19 were announced, all linked to Auckland.

It took the total number of cases in the outbreak to 347.

The decision was made to extend Level 4 for four days in the South Island in part because of the positive wastewater test in Christchurch, although that was said to be likely linked to Covid-19 cases in managed isolation.

Cases in Wellington, and reaching the full two-week cycle of the virus were the other two reasons Ms Ardern cited.

Under Level 3, businesses can resume trading via delivery or contactless click and collect.

In other words, those getting tired of their own cooking will be able to pick up takeaways as of Wednesday.

Dunedin restaurateur Katrina Toovey, who owns Esplanade and No7 Balmac, said it was reassuring to have some certainty about the shift in alert levels.

Like in Level 3 last year, she planned to open both businesses next week, but whether that would be on Wednesday or Thursday depended on how quickly they could get set up.

She and her team were happy with the cautious approach the Government had taken, as it was better than going in and out of lockdowns frequently.

Last year, people were lining up at McDonald’s drive-throughs early on the first morning of Level 3, keen to get a fast-food fix.

Dunedin McDonald's owner Justin Stonelake said while he was expecting things to be busy again next week, he did not think it would be quite as bad as last time.

He was looking forward to getting some clarity on when people could enter their businesses to set up.

‘‘You don’t just turn up and flick the lights on and it goes — there’s a bit more planning behind that, there’s a lot of sanitisation, there’s a lot of cleanliness aspects.’’

Business South chief executive Mike Collins said it would be good for businesses to have some certainty around how long Level 3 would last, as it was still restrictive for most of them.

For Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins, it was good to know when the levels would change, and he thanked those in Auckland and Northland who would continue to do the ‘‘heavy lifting’’.

Council services would remain relatively the same as in Level 4, with one notable exception.

Glass could be picked up for recycling again as of Wednesday, Mr Hawkins said.

A slow and steady approach to returning the South to normal was praised by Southland Mayor Gary Tong.

‘‘It’s certainly a very cautious approach, and I admire the way Cabinet are dealing with this.

‘‘It’s giving an indication that at some stage we will go out of those top two [alert] levels and get back to some form of normality, but whether people are going to be able to continue to travel down here and support our industries down here will be another story.’’

Level 3 also means children can go back to school or early childhood care if there are no means of adult supervision at home.

Dunedin Kindergarten Association general manager Christine Kerr said class bubbles were limited to 10 children, but it was very hard for teachers to know how many children of essential workers would return to schools.

Teachers had been working with children and families online throughout Level 4, but it would be lovely for teachers to spend time with children in kindergartens, even if for very limited numbers.

‘‘We offer a service, we’re very pleased to be able to support essential workers and we definitely will be opening kindergartens for our families,’’ she said.

While many in the South were positive about next week’s move, shortly after the announcement, Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult started to receive phone calls from people in the district dismayed the South would remain in Level 4 until next week.

Queenstown and Wanaka needed Level 2 to get the skifields open and some economic activity going.

‘‘It’s fair to say there would be quite a few long faces around here. In all things Kiwis’ health comes first, but here we are in the South Island where there are no cases; it’s been a couple of weeks since this appeared and you would think the incubation period is now over.

‘‘We are getting to the stage where it is overkill.’’

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