COVID-19: National leader Judith Collins holds back tears after hearing of lockdown business closures

National leader Judith Collins held back tears after hearing of businesses in Auckland shutting up shop due to months of lockdown. 

It came after the Government unveiled its new COVID Protection Framework to replace the current alert level system. The new framework takes vaccination rates into consideration. 

Auckland will move into the Red part of the new 'traffic light' system as all three Auckland District Health Boards (DHBs) hit 90 percent double vaccination. Nearly 90 percent of eligible Aucklanders have had at least one dose.  

In the meantime, the Government will continue to use the three-step system announced a few weeks ago. Under Auckland's current alert level 3, step 1 settings, outdoor gatherings of two bubbles are allowed, and some outdoor recreational activities. 

It's not enough for Collins, who has proposed ending lockdowns and reconnecting with the world when 85 percent of the eligible population, among all regions and ages, are vaccinated; or on December 1 - whichever comes first. 

According to Ministry of Health data, 68.2 percent of eligible New Zealanders are currently fully vaccinated. 

"I'm really disgusted, actually, that people are being just shoved aside," Collins told reporters on Friday after the Government's traffic light framework announcement. 

"It's alright here for us in Wellington because we're at a level 2 situation. We can get out and about and do our jobs, keep our masks on, and all of that. 

"But I'm hearing this morning from people who are looking to or are closing their businesses - everything that they have saved for, worked for, gone."

Collins held back tears as she reflected on how tough it's been for some businesses in hospitality and retail that have been unable to operate for months. 

"This Government has the cheek to turn up with some cock and bull story called a 'traffic light system', and we've got the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, standing there with a stop sign before you even get to the traffic lights. 

"It's an utter disgrace. Am I disgusted by it? Yes, I am."

Companies Office data compiled by Dot Loves Data earlier this month showed 9524 business closures in August alone, compared to 5241 closures over three months between February and April.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson is providing more financial relief for struggling businesses by doubling the amount of money eligible businesses can claim under the Resurgence Support Payment scheme. 

The Government has also agreed on a $60 million package for business advice, and mental health support will be made available to help Auckland businesses through the transition period.

Businesses will be able to apply for up to $3000 worth of advice and planning support, and then receive up to $4000 to implement that advice.

The Government has also agreed in principle that there will be a transition payment made available to support businesses when they move into the new traffic light framework. 

"Final details of the support to be provided under the new framework will be agreed in November," said Robertson. 

The announcements seem to have the backing of Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope, who said the plan provides "much needed clarity" on moving beyond lockdowns and enabling the reopening of the economy.

"It is encouraging to see further support being offered to Auckland businesses currently struggling under level 4 restrictions," Hope said. 

"Higher payments for businesses impacted by higher alert levels - doubling the Resurgence Support Payment until the new framework becomes operational, paying it fortnightly, and offering transition payments for businesses when they move into the new framework - will help support those businesses until they can fully open."

To date, the Government has paid about $4.8 billion in support since this Delta outbreak began in August. That amount exceeds the new operating spending the Government would have for a whole year for the whole country in most Budgets.