Sylvia Park worker scared of bringing COVID-19 home to vulnerable family members when shops reopen

A retail worker at Sylvia Park is worried about returning to work next week when Auckland's lockdown restrictions ease. 

Auckland will shift to alert level 3 step 2 next Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday.  It comes amid high vaccination rates in the super city. 

Under alert level 3.2 retail stores can open but customers must keep 2 meters apart and both staff and customers must wear face coverings. 

The worker, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she is worried about bringing COVID-19 home to her vulnerable family members. While she is fully vaccinated, some of her family members are unable to be and she's worried about them catching the virus.

"My main concern about going back to work is how condensed the mall will be and the family members I have at home who are extremely vulnerable," she told Newshub. 

"One family member can't be vaccinated because of a major health issue. Now that restrictions are opening up and malls will be open I feel as if people have an excuse to not social distance, wear masks properly, hygiene protocols etc."

She's also worried social distancing and mask requirements won't be properly followed. 

"I hope when the time comes it is all being followed but with the amount of comments, protests about having freedom (majority protesting with no masks) and about lockdowns we can already see their behaviour when restrictions lift."

She said she doesn't understand how it is safe for the country's biggest mall to open but not cafes. 

"The well-being of my family and the community is important so I just don't understand fully why high volume places are opening while Auckland's in this state. 

"Maybe local businesses or cafes could have opened up to slowly introduce it, not actual big malls where it will be flooded with little security enforcing rules."

She said it's hard for retail stores to ensure customers follow the rules. 

"I feel super confused and conflicted with this. I want to work and get back into it but I'm still unsure."

It comes as Auckland's case numbers remain above 100 a day with 107 in the city alone on Tuesday. 

First Union secretary for retail and finance Ben Peterson told Newshub reopening retail needs to be done safely so workers aren't put at risk.

"Authorities have been clear that when retailers reopen, there must be safety measures in place like mask-wearing, social distancing and customer limits. However there is currently no mechanism in place to ensure compliance, and some employers are simply not going to take their responsibilities seriously.

"Retailers who take health and safety seriously need to make sure not just that these policies are followed, but also that there's extra security and more staff to help cover the stress of extra workloads."

What's allowed at alert level 3.2

At Step 2, a number of restrictions can be relaxed.

The most notable change will see retail stores reopen, a move which is allowed so long as customers keep 2m apart and staff and customers wear face coverings.

Public facilities like libraries, museums and zoos can also open up again, as can fruit and vegetable markets and shopping malls - though food courts must be contactless and no food or drink can be consumed while at the mall.

Gyms and indoor recreation facilities including swimming pools will remain closed, as will cinemas, theatres and casinos. Businesses offering close contact personal care services such as hairdressers, barbers, massage parlours or beauty treatment centres will also stay shut for a while longer.

Hospitality venues at Step 2 such as cafes, bars, restaurants and takeaway shops can only open for contactless pick-up, delivery or drive-through.

The rule allowing two households of up to 10 people to gather outside will be scrapped and replaced with an outdoor meeting limit of 25 people - though physical distancing is still strongly encouraged to prevent virus spread.

Outdoor organised exercise classes, like yoga and fitness bootcamps, can expand from 10 to 25 people including instructors, with 2m distance required between attendees.

As at all steps of alert level 3, people are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, wear a mask, keep their bubble small, keep track of where they have been and get a test if they are unwell.