Coronavirus: New outbreak in South Korea not a reason to keep NZ bars closed longer - Auckland Chamber of Commerce

There are claims some of the constraints surrounding businesses in alert level 2 don't make sense as New Zealand prepares to reduce restrictions. 

From Thursday, businesses will be able to re-open again when New Zealand enters alert level 2, but bars will have to wait another week.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett doesn't think a new outbreak in South Korea should be used as a reason to keep bars closed longer.

In announcing a planned move to alert level 2, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said bars are the riskiest businesses in terms of COVID-19 high spread, highlighting how South Korean bars were allowed to open for a period before closing straight away following an outbreak.

"Some of it doesn't make sense," Barnett told The AM Show on Tuesday.

"We use comparisons so South Korea and looking at Auckland? Sorry, I just don't see the likeness.

"Many of the economies we compare ourselves [to] have millions of people living in apartment blocks and it's hugely compact - we don't have that."

Meanwhile, Restaurants Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said a week-long delay reopening bars could be the final straw for some struggling businesses.

Bidois told The AM Show some bars can't wait as long May 21 - when they are allowed to open.

"Our estimates are about 15 to 20 percent of the industry won't end up opening their doors as a result of COVID-19.

"With the extension of an extra week for bars, it's potentially even higher.

"We really do need the support. Our industry has been extremely challenged over this time."

Speaking to The AM Show after Bidois, Ardern said a proportion of bars will be able to open on Thursday anyway. Bars are permitted to open if its primary purpose is to serve food.

"It means that more than likely, yes, pubs will open because often they'll be able to open on ANZAC Day and Easter Sunday because they have food service," Ardern said.

"The Ministry of Health said 'wait for bars for two weeks'. We struck a balance where we're allowing restaurants to open.

"Ultimately - the principle here is still the same - no-one wants to open up a sector be-it a nightclub, be-it a dance bar, be-it any form of hospitality only to close it again. We want to make sure we stay on a consistent path."

Barnett, meanwhile, says it's important for businesses to think positively to help them survive. 

He said many business owners feel stranded and need to figure out what's next.

"I think the biggest thing for business now is don't focus on what you can't do, because if we're going to turn our businesses around [and] if we're going to turn this into something positive we do have to be positive.

"If you look at the areas that have been badly affected; the accommodation, hospitality [and] tourism sectors - there's a big opportunity for them to come back.

"There's some clarity needed on some of the rules but it's an opportunity to open the doors."