Businesses grateful for new COVID-19 support, but want certainty on whether tourists need to self-isolate

The next six weeks are going to be rough, especially for businesses already seeing their customers dry up.

But Finance Minister Grant Robertson has opened the purse once again with more support on offer.

It's dead out there and your favourite local is really hurting.

"Omicron has been a blow that is more severe now than at any point in the last two years," says Nick McCaw, Mexico Britomart owner. 

Hairdressers - close contact by nature - are watching clients and staff fall away like a piece of freshly cut hair.

"Your revenue could change in half an hour and you could lose $2000 for the day, just like that," says Sadal & Co. Salon's Kylie Wilson.

Queenstown is a ghost town.

"Queenstown businesses are hurting badly. The worst part is we don't know when it's going to end," says Blair Impey from Republic Hospitality Group.

Omicron's great isolation is keeping people at home - even those who don't have to.

"Immediately as we went into the red setting our customers just evaporated, just disappeared," says McCaw. 

So the Finance Minister's opening the public purse strings again. It's for businesses who've had a 40 percent drop in revenue for a week since January 5 - six weeks before phase 2.

The payment is $4000 plus $400 per full-time employee - capped at 50 workers or $24,000.

It's paid fortnightly for six weeks - so three payments in total.

"The wage bill here is $13,000 per week, the rent is $3500 per week, that's before you buy food, before you buy any alcohol," says McCaw. 

"If we're shut for a month that wouldn't even cover our rent," says Wilson. 

So there's more help - a further $10,000 in interest-free loans through the Small Business Loans Scheme and flexibility with paying taxes.

This all comes at a price. The COVID-19 payments alone could cost $780 million and, yes, says the Finance Minister, we can afford it.

"Absolutely. We have enough money in the COVID Response fund to meet these costs - they're temporary payments," Robertson says. 

Temporary to get through what's going to be a very painful six weeks as the Omicron deluge hits

Businesses told Newshub they were certainly grateful for and desperately needed the support. Some say they also need certainty of what's on the other side - that international visitors won't face lengthy isolation requirements which may put them off.

"What is the light at the end of the tunnel and then give us a plan for how long we hold on for," says Impey. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the "sweet spot" everyone wants to find is when "tourists are able to come in and experience a country with as few public health restrictions as possible".

How we get there is up and over the Omicron wave.