Coronavirus: Auckland salon owner says three days' notice not enough to be ready to reopen

After months of being shut and complaining they'd been "forgotten", some Auckland hairdressers are now annoyed they haven't been given much notice ahead of being allowed to reopen.

The Government on Monday said salons and barbers in the city, still under level 3 restrictions, would be allowed to reopen from Thursday, November 25. They'll be expected to use the new vaccine pass system as part of a trial ahead of the move to the new COVID traffic light system just over a week later. 

"Hairdressers will need to operate with the vaccine passes, take bookings only, no walk-ins, ensure there isn't large congestion, and make sure staff are vaccinated," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. 

Hairdressers were chosen over the likes of gyms, churches and restaurants because of all the high-risk venues that will reopen under the 'red' stage of the traffic light system, they're the safest. 

Studies of salons overseas which have had COVID-19 cases amongst staff have found little evidence of transmission to clients when masks are used

Simone Jones, owner of Headstart Total Body in Glen Eden and a board member of industry lobby group Hair and Barber, in October said they were a "forgotten industry", unable to open as others got back to business. 

She told The AM Show on Tuesday they had "no idea at all" before Monday's press conference that they'd be able to open from Thursday. 

"We had heard rumours - there were rumours going around obviously that we may be opening this week, but then the Prime Minister kept saying 'wait until the 29th'. So the 29th was the day we were waiting for, and we were expecting to open probably 1st of December, so it's come as a huge shock to us."

So much so that on Tuesday morning, the salon's website still says they won't be able to reopen until level 2. 

Mana Dave, co-owner of Blaze Hair and Pony Professionnel in Newmarket, said they were surprised but grateful.

"We're very aware as an industry there are still other small businesses that don't have the opportunity to open yet. So there are going to be some challenges, but we are definitely going to make the most of it." 

Simone Jones.
Simone Jones. Photo credit: The AM Show

Jones said that would be difficult, saying ideally they'd have had a week's notice. 

"As soon as the announcement went off at 4pm, at about five past four my phone was pinging and pinging - people wanting to reschedule their appointments, bring them earlier, thinking they were going to be able to change them. 

"A few more days would have been really, really good. We sort of need a week lead-in. I don't think any other industry realises that when we're down and come back, every phone call that we make, they're our friends - they're not just clients. Every conversation is at least 10 minutes while we check on them, check how they are; they want to check how we are. 

"It's a huge job getting 13 weeks of clients rebooked into a short four weeks." 

She said having to check each client's vaccine passes would slow down the process, "as well as doing all the extra sterilisation and cleaning and everything in between clients". But overall, Jones said she was "very happy" to be getting back to work. 

Dave said he's been constantly updating clients over the three-month lockdown, so they'll be ready on Thursday.

"We're taking the approach… that we'll figure it out as we go along. I think that's the best approach forward."