Covid-19 Delta outbreak: Waikato preparing for shops to open, Auckland businesses unhappy at having to wait another week

There are four more Covid cases in Waikato, the Ōtorohanga mayor says.

In a post on Facebook, Mayor Max Baxter said “unfortunately there are possibly 4 new cases of Covid-19 in Ōtorohanga today”.

So far he was not aware of any new locations of interest since the last update at 6pm yesterday.

Baxter urged residents to continue to treat every premise as if it was a location of interest.

“So carry on wearing face masks, social distance and sanitise. This is even more important now we are about to change to a new level.”

Baxter said it was also “disappointing to hear” that the number of people being testing in Ōtorohanga had dropped off considerably in the last few days.

“Please if you are unwell, have any doubts or are worried please get tested.”

Auckland businesses ready to re-open now

Meanwhile as parts of Waikato get ready to open up retail shops and enjoy slightly more freedoms from midnight, businesses in Auckland say the same relaxations should already be happening in our largest city too.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday that the city would, in principle, move down to alert level 3 step 2 from Wednesday next week – meaning retails stores and public facilities like libraries can open again and outside gatherings of up to 25 people from any household can go ahead.

On leaving Auckland in the current alert system for the next week to allow businesses to prepare, Glenfield Mall owner Dallas Pendergrast said this morning that retail owners did not need a whole week to prepare – they are ready now.

“We’re very disappointed. We’ve been geared up ever since the beginning … we know what we’re doing, we’ve got our signage up, we’ve got sanitisers, QR codes and everything ready to go for a long time,” she told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking.

She said they had about 15 businesses that couldn’t open – hairdressers, a nail bar – and that was also “ridiculous”.

“They tell us that cases are going up, vaccinations are coming down, what’s going to be different in a week’s time?”

Restaurant Association Auckland president Krishna Botica said the hospitality sector felt like it had missed out and would have “dearly loved” to be part of level 3 step 2.

Calls for the Government to allow outdoor dining had been ignored after the stepped rules were announced and the sector felt they had been left out by this announcement, she said.

If Auckland moved to the red traffic light in early December when restaurants could open, it only left three weeks of good trading before Christmas.

Under the current rules, close contact businesses like barbers, hairdressers and beauty salons can only open at alert level 3 step 3.

Hamilton politicians are meeting today to discuss how they can help struggling businesses in the city make the most of the new rules coming into play from 11.59pm tonight, with the deputy mayor saying gang members were being treated “a hell of a lot better” than businesses.

Hamilton deputy mayor Geoff Taylor took to Facebook last night to vent some of his frustrations, saying part of the region’s move from level 3.1 to 3.2 tomorrow was disappointing and a “limp response”, given the city only had one case yesterday.

“Hamilton deserves a hell of a lot more respect, I think. Small businesses are falling over every day. I really feel that gang members and fringe members of society have been treated a hell of a lot better than businesses who are contributing to our society.”

Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate told the Herald she wanted to do everything she could to help the hospitality sector prepare for the safest and earliest outdoor dining experiences.

“We really need the economy to get back on its feet and we must make that quite clear to government.”

A council advisory group will today discuss how it could make it easier for cafes and restaurants to undertake outdoor dining and or other activities to help them survive, she said.

That could include using a couple of car parks in the evenings. There were also discussions about off licensing so people ordering a click and collect meal could also pick up a bottle of wine at the same time.

Not everyone supports a sudden move out of current restrictions, however.

The race to vaccinate more Māori

National Hauora Coalition clinical director Dr Rawiri Jansen said he was disappointed about the Government’s announcement and acknowledged that more community cases would arise and Māori communities would be more vulnerable.

“My sense of it is one of impending doom,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast show.

“The [Delta] pot has come to the boil – and we’re going to turn the gas up. And that’s really problematic.”

Jansen said in about four weeks’ time, we would likely see the approval of vaccination for 5 to 11 year olds – another tool that would help stamp out the outbreak – as well as having the Māori vaccination rates up to a place that meant Māori communities were safe.

“It feels like we are crossing a raging river when the correct answer is to wait until the flood has settled down [so] we can cross safely.”

Yesterday, director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield revealed that the current outbreak has now affected a high population of Māori.

Jansen’s comments come after a High Court ruling yesterday found that Whānau Ora should be given access to information for unvaccinated Māori – in a bid to directly reach out to them to get them vaccinated against Covid-19.

Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chief executive John Tamihere says it beggars belief that in the middle of a pandemic, they had to take the Government to court to lift Māori vaccination rates.

“The problem we’ve got is – even if we got the data now – we’re six weeks out from Christmas, for goodness sake.”

Tamihere said the decision allowed Māori health providers to “work like hell” over the next six weeks to get Māori communities vaccinated.

Being blocked by the Ministry of Health especially when the information on Māori was provided to other groups was just not right, he said.

“We want a chance to have a go at deploying in our own style among our own communities – and what’s wrong with that?”

The ministry now has three days to release the information to the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency.

Tamihere acknowledged that the lifting of restrictions even further would expose Māori communities and effectively make them more vulnerable to the virus.

So they would be going hard over the next few weeks to get as many Māori vaccinated against Covid as possible.

This map shows large vaccinations centres from the Unite again Covid-19 information page. For more detailed information about your neighbourhood visit Healthpoint.

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