Coronavirus: Hospitality businesses have fears for future over length of lockdown

Some hospitality businesses are disappointed alert level 4 won't be lifted immediately and say each day New Zealand is in lockdown, the number of bars and restaurants that will permanently close increases.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that the country will move to level 3 on April 27 at 11:59pm. Level 4 was introduced with a preliminary length of four weeks on March 25, meaning the earliest it could've ended was just before midnight on Wednesday.

Hospitality NZ President and owner of Arborist bar Jeremy Smith says it was "unexpected" and he was hoping for a quicker move.

"[I'm] disappointed that it's been pushed out another five days," he says.

The impact on bars and restaurants which operate on socialising has been crushing them.

"I feel like I'm on a one-lane motorway trying to get somewhere, but there's no off-ramps," Smith says.

In level 3, hospitality businesses can't open as normal - only those with takeaway, drive-thru or contactless pick-up options.

Smith says level 2 will be the "first sign of light at the end of the tunnel".

Ardern says "the best thing" for the hospitality industry is for them to operate as soon as possible.

"What we've traded here is that by staying in that extra bit of time, that gives us greater certainty that we can keep moving in the right direction," she said on Monday.

Retail shops can't open to the public under level 3, but online shopping can begin again and orders can be sent to customers.

The general manager of clothing brand Ruby, Emily Miller-Sharma, says it will be busy for online stores once the levels lift.

"It's going to be quite a big few days getting all our ducks in a row to make sure that every single parcel goes to all of the right people. A bit of a logistical feat but it's exciting," she says.

She's also urging customers to buy local when they can shop again. 

"We always have had a choice and now that choice has just become that much more important."

The construction industry is also desperate to reopen and pick up the tools again in level 3.

Naylor Love CEO Rick Herd says they can weather the storm but even this small extension to level 3 might hurt smaller firms.

"The ability to start work allows us to start earning money again and pay our wages. So it's very important to us.

"A number of contracting organisations, small [and] medium enterprises particularly, are going to struggle to take this much longer. In fact, some of them are going to be marginal even after the four-week shutdown."

Between March 20 and April 8 there were 22,000 extra benefit claims, and 1.6 million workers are now covered by the wage subsidy scheme. But despite an extension of the lockdown, there won't be an extension of the subsidy. 

"No [the subsidy won't be extended]. Keeping in mind, the wage subsidy scheme was for a 12-week period, which of course is well beyond alert level 4," Ardern says.

That doesn't mean the end of Government support. Finance Minister Grant Robertson is looking at other ways to support businesses and households, but New Zealanders may have to wait until Budget day in just over three weeks to see what is planned.

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