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Cautious jubilance under Alert Level 1

ARTHUR HAWKES
arthur.hawkes@age.co.nz

Wairarapa is now back at Alert Level 1, after community transmission was discovered in Auckland on August 11, which plunged the whole country into Level 2.

The risk assessment for Alert Level 1 states that covid-19 is uncontrolled overseas, that there are sporadic imported cases, and that isolated transmission could be occurring in New Zealand.

New Zealand has now met this criteria, which has prompted the government to take the country down to Alert Level 1, with Auckland remaining at Level 2 for the time being.

In Wairarapa, where the last covid-19 case recovered in mid-April, the news has been celebrated, especially by venues that would now be able to allow more people inside, and festivals that would be able to go ahead.

Anna Nielson, Destination Wairarapa general manager, said that the shift to Alert Level 1 was great news for tourism operators and hospitality businesses as it provided a lot more certainty.

“Spring and summer is always a busy time in Wairarapa. Confirmation that we are now heading back into Level 1 means that event organisers can push ahead with their planning.

“Our events calendar is quite dynamic – starting in a couple of weeks we’ve got the wonderful Yarns in Barns Festival of Reading; drag racing, music events, and garden tours.

“Things are getting busy, so it will be a huge relief to the organisers plus the whole hospitality sector that they can now plan accordingly.”

Pam Bailey, Masterton-based celebrant, said she expected weddings to pick up again, as many people had postponed until larger gatherings were allowed.

Bailey said Australia also had a key role to play in Wairarapa weddings, and that the travel restrictions with our neighbour meant that many couples were holding off until family across the ditch were also able to attend.

“They want their families to be able to come over here and be with them, and a lot of people have family in Australia, so the transtasman bubble is another important factor as well as Level 1.

“There will still be a core group of people waiting for the borders to reopen.”

Transport was another area where Level 1 would mean a boost in convenience for travellers and turnover for transport operators.

General manager of Metlink Scott Gallacher also confirmed on Monday that face coverings were no longer mandatory on their services.

He stressed the importance of hygiene and self-isolation if sick.

“One of the best defences against the spread of covid-19 is personal hygiene, Gallacher said.

“That’s hand washing before and after travelling, coughing, and sneezing into your elbow, and staying at home and getting tested as soon as possible if you are sick.”

Becks Sayer, chairwoman of Business Wairarapa, the chamber of commerce, outlined how the region’s hospitality industry would now be able to take a higher profit, but noted the difficulty still faced by businesses dealing with entities overseas, or in Auckland, which was still at Level 2.

“A drop to Level 1 will be a welcome relief to all of those in the hospitality industry who won’t have to worry about table service to the same extent anymore.

“This has been an additional cost with increasing staffing levels required to service their customer base.

“Challenges for many however, will still remain when sourcing materials out of Auckland or overseas due to covid-19.

“Many businesses are finding that what used to take a couple of days is taking over a week out of Auckland.

“In some cases, certain products from overseas are taking up to three months to get here particularly when it comes to mechanical parts.

“When you want your machinery or vehicle fixed and back on the road earning you money, this new delay can be very costly.”

The last period of Level 1 ‘normality’ lasted 102 days.

It was unclear how long this would remain for New Zealand, but in Wairarapa the mood seemed to be one of cautious jubilance.

Wairarapa is now back at Alert Level 1

What’s changing?

No restrictions on gatherings but organisers encouraged to maintain contact tracing

Face coverings and social distancing no longer compulsory on public transport

No restrictions on personal movement but people are encouraged to maintain a record of where they have been

What’s not changing?

Personal hygiene and sanitisation must be maintained

Social distancing still encouraged where possible

Covid-like symptoms should mean you stay home and get tested

QR codes must still be displayed in premises



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