Auckland’s embattled central businesses will be sighing a collective sense of relief this afternoon at news the CBD can reopen after the latest Covid scare.
After Thursday’s community case centred in the CBD was announced, the Government encouraged people to stay out of the area, and for workers to stay home if possible.
Today’s “stay at home” request was predicted to cost inner-city businesses more than $10 million, the Auckland Chamber of Commerce predicted.
But this afternoon, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said they’d now genomically linked the latest case – an AUT student aged in her 20s – to the Defence Force worker who was infected at a quarantine hotel.
“Events can take place but we are asking people to act with caution,” Hipkins said.
Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said with 100,000 workers staying out of the central city today businesses would have taken another major financial hit.
News that things were “relatively” back to normal was a “welcome relief”.
“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, so this announcement will be hugely relieving.”
On Thursday night many venues decided to cancel their events, acting on official advice.
With uncertainty lingering until the 2pm announcement today, other events planned for the weekend decided to play it safe and postpone, including the K-Festival. Restaurants and bars were also fielding cancellations.
“It had quite a big impact, with a large number of workers not coming in today, and the international numbers already down. Individual businesses were making their own decisions about whether to open or not, so it’s definitely a relief things can pick up again.”
The official advice was that the city – and the rest of the country – remained at alert level 1, but Hipkins urged extra caution and called for people to wear masks on public transport in Auckland and on flights into and out of the city.
On Monday, Hipkins will take an order to Cabinet seeking to make the measures mandatory, but it will likely not be required by the end of next week.
So he asked New Zealanders to follow that advice now.
Beck said after the last lockdowns the city centre had been slowly picking up pace, with the average daily spend in the past week up to $3 million.
“It’s slower than usual, but things were looking up with a lot of events planned, Christmas trading, and a lot of new restaurants and shopping outlets.
“This is a timely reminder this is a pandemic so people do need to take care and be vigilant, but the message now is that people are allowed back in.
“We are hoping for a nice and sunny weekend with plenty of activity in the city.”
Council venues reopen on Saturday
Meanwhile the Auckland Council will reopen its city centre venues on Saturday.
The Auckland Central City Library and Tepid Baths were closed today in accordance with government advice to limit activity in the city.
The council offices at Albert St, Graham St and Bledisloe House, the Waitematā Local Board office, and Bledisloe House and Graham St service centres will open as usual on Monday.
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