Fran O'Sullivan writes today on the one key area the PM can help business: 'Such an assurance would be a huge confidence booster to a business sector which is having to make some difficult calls on the shape of their future business; particularly how many staff they can keep employed through the testing times ahead.'
Jacinda Ardern could present New Zealand with an assurance that there is no way she will move the country back into a nationwide level 4 lockdown if there is another Covid-19 breakout.
That assurance could be backed with a Government insistence on extreme vigilance: the compulsory use of tracking devices so that if there are any further breakouts of the virus, carriers can be quickly traced and quarantined.
That assurance could also be backed by a huge investment in repetitive population testing for the virus that would pinpoint potential outbreaks even if carriers were asymptomatic.
Such an assurance would be a huge confidence booster to a business sector which is having to make some difficult calls on the shape of their future business; particularly how many staff they can keep employed through the testing times ahead.
There is a great deal of concern that without rigorous tracking, testing and tracing the move to level 2 might be short-lived.
Knowing that their businesses could stay open because the Government was prepared to put New Zealand on a war footing to "stamp the virus out" would be a huge confidence booster.
That assurance has not been forthcoming.
Ardern's "carrot and stick" approach — as outlined for moving to alert level 2 tomorrow — seems more designed for bar owners and patrons to take on board if they are to be allowed to socialise from Thursday week.
That clubs and bars are highly risky businesses when it comes to keeping Covid-19 under control should not need pointing out.
But right now there is just far too much haze on what Ardern will do if confronted with adverse circumstances. This has already happened in South Korea where one man went on the ultimate bender among Seoul clubs, infecting many more Koreans.
The Seoul mayor ordered shut 2100 nightclubs, hostess bars and discos and urged others to enforce anti-virus measures, including distancing, temperature checks, keeping customer lists and requiring employees to wear masks.
All this should be in place before bars and clubs open in New Zealand next week. And owners clearly told if they can't keep control of their patrons they will be closed.
New Zealand has already paid a huge economic and social cost as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. That will be outlined in tomorrow's Budget. But the battle is not over.
It's pointless right now to argue whether the Government did "go hard and early" as Ardern's daily repetition invites us to believe.
It is obvious Ardern's high trust model did not work when New Zealanders and foreign travellers were asked to self-isolate after coming across the border.
So, why should we similarly assume a high trust model will work now with people being asked to voluntarily fill out contact books so any future outbreak can be traced?
And if there is an outbreak, region-specific lockdowns are the answer despite Ardern's claim they would be complex to administer. She has said they present a massive logistical challenge, requiring checkpoints which could disrupt the flow of freight. Well that's the job for government to overcome.
For business owners looking to invest for the future, and carry staff on their books until the Covid-19 pandemic is beaten (which may not be for years) more certainty is required.