New COVID Settings Don’t Go Far Enough

Jacinda Ardern has announced the Government’s significant loosening of Covid-19 rules, including removing vaccine pass requirements, most vaccine mandates, QR code scanning and outdoor gathering limits.

Businesses will still be able to use vaccine passes if they want to, but the passes will not be required to operate with indoor guests. Vaccine mandates will be narrowed to cover only health, aged care, corrections and border workers.

The Government has also abolished all outdoor gathering limits and doubled the indoor gathering limit from 100 to 200. QR code scanning will also be removed and masks will no longer be required at outdoor venues.

The end to mandates for staff and vaccine passes for customers have been welcomed by the hospitality and accommodation sectors, but increasing the capacity cap for venues will make little difference for larger venues, according to Hospitality New Zealand.

“The Prime Minister says things have been ‘bloody hard’ – well, I can say this has been very bloody hard for hospitality and accommodation businesses. Moving the cap to 200 is a waste of time, because people still have to be seated. Why 200? It’s nonsensical,” expressed Hospitality NZ chief executive, Julie White.

“The cap should be pinned to the capacity of the venue. Lifting it will not work for bars and other night venues. The seated model does not work for them, even with a higher cap. These are businesses that have been disproportionately impacted through the whole two years of the pandemic.”

These new rules still come under the ‘Red’ setting f the traffic light system, which New Zealand is staying within for the time being. The mandate removal and end of the vaccine pass will go into effect from April 5, while the other changes go into effect from midnight on Friday March 25.

White noted that businesses are running out of patience.

“The removal of outdoor limits while having indoor seated limits is also nonsensical. You can play a game of rugby where players are all over each other, but when they go for a beer later, they have to be seated and spaced apart. How ridiculous is that?

“As the Prime Minister said today, the data speaks for itself and virus spread in hospitality is low. That’s exactly what we have been saying, so if that’s the case why are we staying in the Red setting? The planning for all this has been haphazard, to say the least.”

White added that while New Zealand is opening to the world, the country still has these nonsensical solutions.

“Nothing is running concurrently or complimentary.  To have to wait until the 4th of April when every day counts for those in hospitality and accommodation is just going to be too late for some,” White concluded.

“And all the while hospitality businesses continue to be hammered.”