David Seymour shocked COVID-19 alert level 3 rules still ban butchers, greengrocers from serving customers

ACT leader David Seymour is shocked the Government is not allowing butchers and greengrocers to interact with customers at alert level 3, having hoped the rules would be changed this time around. 

"This is completely insane," Seymour told Magic Talk. "Setting the rules of the game is one of the key jobs of Government here, and I don't want to be negative about everything, but there's so many areas where I just feel that we could do a better job." 

Auckland has been placed into alert level 3 after community transmission of COVID-19 was discovered in the south of the city, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Thursday that the rules have not changed since last time. 

Ardern said the level 3 rules will be "exactly the same" as it was when it came into force nationwide on April 27. She encouraged businesses to contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) over any issues. 

"There may be cases where people see their competitors open and they're not - that may well be that someone's not quite following the rules appropriately, so I do encourage them to contact MBIE who can resolve that straight away."

At alert level 3 in April, only supermarkets, dairies, petrol stations, pharmacies and permitted health services were allowed to have customer-facing operations while every other business could only operate under contactless delivery or pre-arranged collection. 

The same rules still apply this time around.  

Seymour said it doesn't make sense for people to cram into supermarkets when they could use other options such as butcheries and greengrocers. It's an issue he raised in April when he described supermarkets as lockdown's "Achilles heel". 

"I've heard stories about butchers crying on the side of the street because they just ordered all their stock in and all of a sudden they've got to either freeze it or practically give it away," he said.

"Surely they will have learnt from last time? No. Once again, they've locked down your beloved local business so you can drive past it while it goes broke and then go and mix with 50 other people at a supermarket in another suburb."

Former National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett, who was hosting the talkback show, agreed. 

"I think there is something in the middle there where we now, as adults, as human beings that appreciate the health risks, actually can go about not closing every business and butchers and bakers and others who have proven that they can do it safely."

The Prime Minister said she understands the disruption to businesses is "putting extraordinary pressure" on them but the "best long-term economic response" is for New Zealand is to get the immediate response right. 

"At level 3 there's a much wider range of individuals who can operate but albeit making sure that they're not customer-facing and applying safety protocols for their operations."

Businesses are also now forced to display a QR code - something the Government previously ruled out because officials said it could not be justified at alert level 1.  

"For businesses across the country, a reminder that all must put up a QR code for use with the New Zealand COVID Tracer App at each entry way so people can track their movements," Ardern said. 

"You must put up your poster before the 19th of August to avoid penalties - many of you have and I really thank you for doing that." 

The app has now recorded 986,000 registered users - 338,000 in the last 48 hours. There have been 51,000 posters created in the last 48 hours. 

An exposure alert has been sent to people who were at Heritage Farm and Skyline Gondola in Rotorua last weekend when Aucklanders who tested positive for COVID-19 were there visiting. 

You can find more about the latest COVID-19 developments here