Will Omicron Close Down Queenstown?

After 51 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed across Otago and Southland, a Queenstown business leader has predicted that the whole town could close by Friday. All but 10 of the 51 cases were in Queenstown or Wanaka.

With an ever-increasing list of bars, restaurants and tourist attractions listed as locations of interest or places where people with Covid-19 came into contact with other patrons and staff, Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes predicted "everywhere will be closed by Friday".

The expectation was that everyone in close contact with a Covid-19 case meant many employees were unable to work and with a severe labour shortage in the resort town, few places would be able to stay open, Stokes said.

About 70 percent of business closures in Queenstown in the past year had been in the past six months, and anecdotally she had been told there were more insolvencies to come, Stokes said.

"These businesses going to the wall aren't just fly-by-night businesses. These are established firms that have been around for years, contributed millions of dollars to the local economy, and employ a lot of people."

Although cases have been reported in Queenstown, Dunedin, Gore, and Invercargill, the only locations of interest notified so far in the region have been in Queenstown and Wanaka.

Yesterday, four more Queenstown-linked locations were notified, two flights to Auckland last Tuesday (NZ634 at 6.05pm and NZ612 at 10.30am) and two bars, Harry's Pool Bar and Cowboys Bar.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult urged all residents to pull together and remain united in dealing with Covid-19.

"Some businesses will experience staff shortages due to illness or the need to self-isolate, and others may need to close temporarily while they deep clean," he said.

The majority of locations of interest identified in Queenstown and Wanaka have been bars and restaurants, and health authorities yesterday issued a plea for anyone who had been out socialising in recent days to be aware that they could have been exposed to Covid-19.