COVID-19: Businesses fear worst as customer numbers plummet under red traffic light

It's not lockdown - but for many businesses it has a similar feeling.

Despite being able to keep their doors open, the red light framework is keeping many would-be customers at home.

Monday was a grey day in Christchurch to go with the red light of the COVID protection framework. Neither were helping to bring in the customers.

"The weather has tried to reflect people's emotions and it's a bit dreary, not a tonne of foot traffic," Rollickin Gelato spokesperson Liam Donnelly told Newshub.

The usual lunch-hour rush looked a little different.

"Regular customers say they have been advised to work from home rather than the office," Black and White Coffee owner Wendy Xu says.

Unlike in lockdown, cafes, bars and restaurants are open but for little reward.

"I don't know how long we can survive for," Xu warns.

And nobody knows how long the red light restriction will last.

"It's a real knock to business confidence which was already very depleted. I think everyone is struggling through," Christchurch Central Business Association chair Annabel Turley says.

"We've been very quiet after New Years. Everybody goes away and we hope they are coming back this week," Xu adds.

In Auckland it was a similar scene, with quiet streets and concerned business owners.

"If enough of the staff went down we would have to close and that would be quite serious," The Women's Bookshop owner Carole Beu warns.

In Wellington, the region's public holiday was enough to bring people out and about. But Tuesday will be the test for the capital when office workers go back to work - or don't.