Auckland retailers finally got some welcome news with Covid restrictions likely easing next Wednesday to allow them to open doors for the first time in weeks.
But it's still another week of no revenue for many small businesses and there is still no firm date on when restaurants, bars, hairdressers and the like might open under controlled conditions.
Waikato retailers can open from tomorrow midnight under the second stage of level 3.
The restrictions would further ease once all the three DHBs reach 90 per cent vaccinations, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said he would have liked Auckland open earlier but it was still good news that the Government was moving to allow retail stores to open in Auckland from next Tuesday.
But he was concerned about the hard road ahead for many retail businesses.
"The decision to allow retail to open comes after weeks of lockdown but is in line with previous Government announcements," he said.
"Retailers want to do their bit to help keep people safe, while trading and measures such as mask use, distancing, good hygiene, and encouraging vaccination uptake will help keep everyone safe," he said.
The reopening of retail will provide a lifeline for many businesses that have been struggling to stay afloat, but the road to recovery will still be long and hard, he said.
"It's important that businesses can get their doors open ahead of the busy Christmas season, but it won't be business as usual in-store.
"I'm asking all customers to wear masks, be patient and understand that everyone in retail is trying their best to deliver great products and services during difficult times," Harford said.
He said he hoped the Government will move swiftly to Step 3 of the Auckland Roadmap in two weeks so that other businesses are also able to open, subject to safety measures.
"Although it's good news that most retail can now open, there are still other businesses whose doors remain firmly shuttered, and some of the rules really don't make sense.
"Physiotherapists are already open to customers, while spa and massage services must be closed, although the risk profile of these businesses is nearly identical. Retail NZ hopes that the Government will move swiftly to Step 3 of the Auckland Roadmap in two weeks, so that other businesses are also able to open, subject to safety measures."
Meanwhile, the costs continue to mount.
The Government has so far spent more than $17 billion on wage subsidy payments since the start of the pandemic.
Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said, she was disappointed with Ardern's announcement today because given the large vaccination rate she had hoped that the Government would drop Auckland down to alert level 2.
"Every day counts for our businesses, as we head close to a $1 billion lost in spending in the city centre. One more week will have a big impact for many, we need urgency on outstanding actions for support and recovery," Beck said.
Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said today's announcement was the reflection of the inequities between overseas arrivals and domestic travellers.
"The inequities are becoming more obvious – I can fly into Auckland from overseas if I am double vaccinated but if I'm double vaccinated I can't cross the border to the Waikato or Northland," Barnett said.
"Auckland has paid the price of this lockdown and while there is some movement today I don't believe it will satisfy many.
"What it needed was an indication of the step for next week and the following steps," he said.
Restaurant representatives expressed disappointment at no planned date to move to
level 3.3, the level at which hospitality is able to operate.
"What we have is yet another short-term plan with no certainty around when our businesses can plan to reopen," said Marisa Bidois, CEO of the Restaurant Association.
"All we are asking for is a specific date around which our business can start planning, but
once again we are left wanting.
"Our industry has been left behind in the three-step process and while retail is opening and outdoor gatherings can increase in size, hospitality remains closed.
"We have requested an opening of hospitality for outdoor dining at level 3.2 but are yet to
receive a response to this suggestion.
"It doesn't make much sense to business owners to see people picnicking in groups of 25
whilst smaller groups are unable to make use of outdoor dining areas in our venues.
"We implore the Government at this stage to give us a set date to work to. This will allow our businesses to plan with some certainty."