Trust and messaging key to success

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Mark Mitchell
Jacinda Ardern. Photo: ODT files
The officials many New Zealanders trusted to see their country through the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic now hope New Zealanders can be trusted not to squander what has been gained.

It was arguably easier to flatten the transmission curve at Alert Levels 4 and 3, when most people were either stuck at home or at workplaces subjected to strict health and safety regimes.

The regulations underpinning both alert levels were clear when reduced to slogans such as "stay home" and "stay in your bubble". Now, they are underpinned by care and common sense.

At least some of them are. As of last night, anxious business owners were grappling with how the phased introduction of Level 2 restrictions will work, and why some must wait to reopen.

As they did in the move to Level 3, they await industry and even site-specific advice ahead of what, for some, will be a long haul to rejuvenate their operations.

They will be among a vast swathe of businesses and public spaces to reopen on Thursday, providing they do so with physical distancing and hygiene measures that can be practically applied and enforced.

Inter-region travel resumes, though planes and trains will almost certainly operate at significantly reduced capacity — and with higher charges — to keep people apart.

Tourism businesses want the trickle of traffic to intensify the further New Zealand slips towards Level 1, though much depends on what happens when the cost of the lockdown is tallied.

Schools and kindergartens will reopen on Monday, giving parents and teachers the time they need to prepare for what, on the face of it, might look and feel like the ‘‘restart’’ of the new academic year.

Most adult sport will resume but after-match functions involving more than 10 people will not. Restaurants will reopen but they too will not take bookings of 10-or-more people.

Bars without dining will not open until May 21. The Government saw what happened in South Korea, where infections were traced back to post-lockdown drinks, and it does not want a repeat here.

Funerals and tangi are treated in the same way. The Funeral Directors Association says this is without compassion. Remarkable, that more people might be allowed in a large restaurant — or on a bus — than at a funeral.

Social distancing, crowd limits, server ratios, and hygiene measures and facilities are all in the mix as our communities get back up and running. There is much to remember, and plenty that could lead to confusion and breaches.

Observers have noted our health, central and local government communication campaigns ensured a health system with limited capacity did not need to meet a full-blown crisis.

But it must not be forgotten that business advocates consistently sought clarity each time the alert levels were retooled or imposed, and that clarity took days to achieve.

Now, they and their communities expect speedy and accessible information as to what is expected at Alert Level 2 and 1 so they can focus on getting things back up and moving.

Speed is of the essence. While Level 2 allows for more movement and commerce, it comes with new costs — and lockdown legacy debt — for many.

Businesses, social agencies and community groups need information so they can make the decisions that enhance their chance of survival.

In the meantime, and no matter how much we know about the regulations, we must each ensure the gains of the past six weeks are not lost.

The social distancing we became used to must continue; we must continue to wash our hands and we must get tested if we feel a touch of the old Covid-19.

The graduated change to Level 2 is another, significant step towards restoring the health of our community and our economy. We have left the waiting room and we do not want to go back.


 

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