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National's South Island MPs have joined forces to ask Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to explain why the island is at Covid-19 Alert Level 2.
There has not been a case of the pandemic disease in the South Island for almost a year, although several clusters from the first wave of the disease originated in the South.
The current outbreak is of the highly transmissible Delta strain of the coronavirus, and Ms Ardern has previously said the Level 2 restriction was in place to keep the South Island safe.
Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds said she and her eight southern colleagues believed the island staying at Level 2 was having a ‘‘deep and irrevocable impact’’ on people and would inevitably force more businesses to close.
“I know that the continuation of Level 2 is placing a huge strain on many Southland businesses, with some reaching breaking point and at least three in Invercargill closing down.
“Fifteen thousand jobs across Southland claimed the wage subsidy during the August lockdown, according to the Ministry of Social Development, an indication of how widespread the pain in this area was.’’
On Wednesday, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said there had been examples of Aucklanders who had defied the recently lifted Alert Level 4 lockdown and who had travelled to the South Island.
The risk someone else could do so and bring Covid-19 with them justified the South Island retaining the added precautions afforded at Alert Level 2, he said.
Ms Simmonds said the Government’s continued focus on Auckland meant little consideration was being given to communities and businesses in the South which were also doing it hard.
"A business owner in the hospitality sector said, even with this week’s increase in dining numbers to 100, people were keeping their wallets shut because of the economic uncertainty that Level 2 created.
“Until we are free of Level 2, I believe very little will change for small-business owners in Southland."