Covid-19: What industry leaders make of alert level 3 impacts on their sector

Construction worker.
Leaders from a range of sectors share their views on alert level 3. Photo credit: Newshub.

Once the country moves to level 3 of the COVID-19 alert system, the focus will still be on keeping contact with others to the bare minimum - but some restrictions around travel, business and activities will be loosened.

On Friday, Morning Report spoke to leaders from different sectors around the country about what the level 3 restrictions would mean for them.

Hospitality industry

When the country moves to Covid-19 alert level 3, hospitality businesses will be able to reopen to offer takeaways and deliveries, as long as they are contactless and do not involve face-to-face customer service.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said: "There is mixed feelings. There are those who are 100 percent ready to get back into their businesses, they are familiar with the takeaway model - that's about 30 percent."

Another 30 percent of hospitality businesses were looking at diversifying their business model to tap into takeaways and deliveries.

The other 40 percent weren't reopening because level 3 restrictions meant it would not work for them.

The industry had heard from others offering ways to help and support businesses as they reopened and tried to set up for deliveries and takeaways, Bidois said.

But it had been a tough run.

"The last two months has been dire ... we have seen a lot of businesses close permanently."

Forestry

Forestry will be able to restart under alert level 3.

The industry began to feel the affects of the global pandemic weeks before the rest of New Zealand went into lockdown, when Chinese markets began to shut down.

Forest Industry Contractors Association chief executive Prue Younger said: "We hope we can get them all back to work but it will be slowly, slowly... but we have a plan."

A programme to return to work had been endorsed by the industry and WorkSafe, she said.

There was also a demand for New Zealand forestry products both locally and overseas.

"Prices are looking pretty good and we are really looking forward to the announcement on Monday, fingers and toes crossed."

Nursing

Most nurses worked right through alert level 4 and they still have concerns about how to do their jobs during the pandemic.

They're especially worried about access to personal protective equipment and want assurances it will be available.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation director Kerri Nuku said: "What we have to be mindful of is ... that we probably will see a lot more tests or be required to do more testing as our bubbles get bigger. As a health system we need to make sure we can respond."

Nurses had been "incredibly anxious" while working through the lockdown.

"This has been mentally quite draining on this workforce," Nuku said.

Nurses had been assured there was sufficient PPE, but that wasn't the feeling that staff had.

They were looking forward to that changing.

Nuku also said it was important to ensure adequate staffing for the long term - "this is about being in a marathon not a sprint... I think at the moment it is early days."

Construction

Construction will be allowed to resume with some new restrictions on site.

Registered Master Builders Association chief executive David Kelly said that brought a great sense of relief for the whole industry.

Protocols for residential and larger commercial building sites were signed off yesterday, he said, and WorkSafe had endorsed them.

The rules included having handwash stations on site, keeping a list of everyone working at the location and physical distancing of 2 metres between workers.

Kelly said there might be the odd occasion where people had to work a bit closer but "in general people are not working right next to each other".

"The input from builders is that's definitely achievable in most situations."

Smoko rooms would have to be set up to keep a physical distance, and larger commercial sites would have to organise split breaks.

Kelly says it was critical that everyone stuck to the protocols because the worst thing would be a return to level 4.

"This has been mentally quite draining on this workforce," Nuku said.

Nurses had been assured there was sufficient PPE, but that wasn't the feeling that staff had.

They were looking forward to that changing.

Nuku also said it was important to ensure adequate staffing for the long term - "this is about being in a marathon not a sprint... I think at the moment it is early days."

"If anyone doesn't follow [the protocols] they can expect to be shut down" - David Kelly, Morning Report.

Early childhood

Families will be able to send children back early childhood centres, and schools will be open for up to Year 10. Public playgrounds would remain off-limits.

Early childhood specialist Dr Sarah Alexander from sector organisation ChildForum, said it was impossible for small children to safely go back to pre-school.

Early childhood services were high-risk environments in the Covid-19 outbreak and there was a lot of concern in the sector about reopening.

"At school age perhaps children can sit at desks, they can sit a metre apart, older children might be expected to comply with some hygiene and social distance rules," Dr Alexander said.

"Infants, toddlers put objects into their mouths - its something infants do as part of exploring their environment.

"Young children need to play they need to touch and they need to interact with adults.

"The only foolproof way to keep the environment clean is to not let children play."

Aged care

Age Concern chief executive Stephanie Clare said the opportunity for people to extend their bubbles under level 3 would help the elderly, who could add a carer or another family member but still keep safe.

The first two weeks of lockdown were especially difficult for older people, she said.

But since then supermarkets, local government and Civil Defence, Age Concern and volunteers like the Student Volunteer Army had ensured groceries and medicines were being delivered to those who needed them.

RNZ

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