COVID-19: Impact of Auckland's lockdown on businesses should not be underestimated, financial support 'warranted' - Goff

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says he does not underestimate the impact the city's provisional 72-hour lockdown might have on businesses, with some sectors still suffering from the fallout of last year's restrictions.

Although affected businesses will be eligible to apply for financial support if the lockdown is extended for longer than a week, Goff says the tentative three-day period could still pack a punch for struggling industries. 

As of 11:59pm on Sunday, the Super City was plunged into alert level 3 of the COVID-19 response after three new cases of the virus were detected in South Auckland. 

Under alert level 3, Aucklanders - aside from essential workers - are largely required to remain at home, unless it is for essential personal movement. Although takeaways and click-and-collect services are permitted under the level 3 framework, the restrictions leave customer-facing sectors, such as retail and hospitality, vulnerable to financial strain without patrons to generate income. The hospitality industry was particularly stricken by two lockdowns in 2020, implemented to curb the spread of severe outbreaks in the Super City.

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday morning, Goff says he does not "underestimate" the impact the three-day period could have on some businesses.

"The hospitality industry, in particular, will be affected," he said.

"You can still do your click-and-collect and your takeaways - that will help a lot of businesses scrape through, but I don't underestimate the impact on some businesses - and that could be quite severe.

"It is a hassle, it's not welcome… but I think most of us understand why it needed to happen."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has acknowledged that if the current restrictions are extended past the seven-day mark, businesses who can prove a decline in revenue will be eligible for financial aid.

Ardern confirmed to The AM Show earlier this morning that the Government will implement another wage subsidy to support affected businesses if the lockdown period is lengthened. 

Last year, the Government introduced a wage subsidy scheme to continue cash-flow throughout the lockdowns, supporting businesses that could prove a 30 percent decline in revenue due to the country's outbreaks. It paid $585.80 per week for full-time staff and $350 for part-time staff. 

An extension for the most severely impacted businesses was made available for an additional eight weeks, supporting hundreds-of-thousands of employees. The Government then introduced the COVID-19 resurgence wage subsidy for two weeks, in response to the second outbreak and lockdown in Auckland later in the year.

Goff said financial aid for affected businesses in Auckland is "warranted". 

"The Prime Minister has said the wage subsidy will be available if we go longer than seven days, but the payment will be made after seven days, back-paid. I think the wage subsidy was incredibly important… that sort of support is pretty critical," he said.

"The point I would make to Government is yeah, we've got a higher lockdown - we know why that is, we are the gateway city... but because we have to bear that burden, it's important to have that support to make sure Aucklanders aren't worse off than businesses in other parts of the country.

"I don't think anyone would begrudge those Auckland businesses that are suffering because of the level 3 restrictions getting the assistance they need."

However, he acknowledged that level 3 is not level 4, or full lockdown - the highest alert level under the COVID-19 response framework. The restrictions are slightly more relaxed, allowing businesses to open as long as there is no physical interaction with customers.

Aside from supermarkets, primary produce retailers, pharmacies, petrol stations or hardware stores providing goods to trade customers, businesses are currently not permitted to offer services involving close personal contact.

The Prime Minister and Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, will provide the latest information on the three new cases during a press conference at 4pm.