Coronavirus: Wage subsidy extension pleases Southland businesses


The Bluff restaurant owner at the centre of the “wedding reception cluster” is “pretty happy” to hear about the wage subsidy extension as Southland will stay in level 2 for another 12 days.

Oyster Cove restaurant owner Ross Jackson said: “The result we got was probably the best we were going to get, given the circumstances,” he said, referring to the Prime Minister’s announcement that Auckland was stay at level 3 and the rest of the country at level 2, but for 12 additional days.

Patron numbers had already started dropping off, and he had already been planning for a prolonged alert level 2, ensuring all the relevant safety precautions were in place at the restaurant, “because we know a bit about this now”.

The latest outbreak, in Auckland, should remind people that they needed to be cautious until a Covid-19 vaccine was found, Jackson said.

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After hitting record-high testing numbers in Southland and Otago on Wednesday, there are still no cases of Covid-19 in the Southern District Health Board catchment area.

However, board chief executive Chris Fleming said on Friday night that residents should remain vigilant and get tested if they had flu-like symptoms.

He, too, was pleased with the announcement.

“While still creating some restrictions, it is something of a relief that we are not being asked to provide our services under greater restrictions at this stage.”

Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sheree Carey says it would be naive to think the region wouldn’t be affected by strict Covid-19 restrictions in Auckland.

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Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sheree Carey says it would be naive to think the region wouldn’t be affected by strict Covid-19 restrictions in Auckland.

South Port staff in Bluff will be tested for Covid-19 as part of a nationwide attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

The port’s chief executive, Nigel Gear, said the Ministry of Health told ports across New Zealand on Friday that frontline staff at the maritime border were now required to undertake testing.

Testing had already begun at Ports of Auckland and the Southern District Health Board was working with South Port to begin testing in the coming week.

South Port was operating under current Ministry of Health Guidelines for border control in its response to Covid and was in regular contact with the DHB, he said.

As part of the guidelines, crew members on ships arriving at the port were not permitted shore leave while berthed.

Also, any shore based staff that were required to board a ship were provided with the correct PPE [protective gear] and were practicing the correct procedures, as outlined by the ministry and in accordance with alert level 4 protocols, Gear said.

”Employees boarding international vessels have not been tested to date as this has not been a requirement.”

If any employee who boarded an international ship started to show symptoms consistent with Covid-19 they would be sent to undertake a test.

No such testing had been required so far, Gear said.

Southland Chamber of Commerce Sheree Carey said the south would “absolutely” be able to cope with the level 2 restrictions.

In particular, the wage subsidy extension meant businesses nationwide affected by Auckland’s stricter restrictions would have a better chance of pulling through, Carey said.

Criteria would be announced Monday, but knowing support was on its way would ease stress for business owners over the weekend, she said.

Most had learned to work around barriers during the past lockdown, Carey said, and level two restrictions were relatively easy to deal with.

“It could have been worse,” she said.

She didn’t want to downplay the outbreak, but warned that moving in and out of alert levels would likely continue for some time.

“We need to learn to live with this new normal,” Carey said.

Alert levels were raised from level 1 on Wednesday, following the discovery of a community outbreak of Covid-19 in Auckland. The super city will remain in alert level 3 while Government officials work to contain the spread.

Carey said Southland’s tourism and hospitality sectors would struggle during the next 12 days, and there were concerns that the latest outbreak would dent confidence in domestic travel.

She encouraged Southlanders to support local businesses by continuing to go out for coffee dates and business lunches, which were still allowed.