A union representing food workers is labelling a decision by a pizza store chain to remain open for delivery service during the lockdown as dangerous and "socially irresponsible".

Unite Union is calling on the Government to order all pizza stores and takeaway shops to close to protect the public and staff, and to prosecute any that break the rules.

"If pizza is essential, there's not much that isn't essential," Unite Union national secretary Gerard Hehir said.

"What they are proposing is socially irresponsible, a danger to workers and undermines the lockdown."

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His comments come amid growing confusion over what businesses constitute "essential services", meaning they are allowed to remain open during the unprecedented four-week pandemic lockdown, which begins at midnight tomorrow.

Hehir said the announcement today that Domino's would remain open for delivery and provide free meals to seniors enduring self-isolation amounted to a publicity stunt.

Hehir said there would be marginal calls as to what were "essential" services, but this was not one of them.

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"The rules are actually clear."

The Government's Covid-19 information website, said essential businesses included those involved in the supply, delivery, distribution and sale of food, beverage and other key consumer goods essential for maintaining the wellbeing of people, "but not takeaway shops".

"Firstly these [pizza chains] are clearly takeaway shops," Hehir said.

"Just shifting to delivery only cannot be a way around that, otherwise every restaurant and takeaway could just convert to delivery only and keep operating. That would be a disaster."

Hehir added that pizzas were "clearly not essential for maintaining the wellbeing of people".

"Supermarkets are open and there are plenty of ready-to-eat options available (including fresh and frozen pizzas that just need to be heated)."

Despite claims of "contactless delivery", it would be almost impossible to maintain proper protections and social distancing in a pizza kitchen, Hehir said.

"In the interests of the whole country they should use the government subsidy to pay their staff their normal pay and send them home during the crisis. We can eat pizza later."

Any store that flouted the lockdown should be closed, prosecuted and their right to continue operating in New Zealand revoked, Hehir said.

The union had also heard reports that Hell Pizza outlets intended to continue operating and that staff had been told they must show up to work.

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An email from "concerned staff at Hell Pizza" said it was wrong to send vulnerable staff on deliveries to the homes of people who "might be holed up in self isolation with the virus".

Remaining open undermined the intent of the nationwide lockdown, and would put communities at risk, the email said.

Hell Pizza general manager Ben Cumming told the Herald the company had consulted with staff and franchisees about remaining open, but decided against it due to the risk.

"It became clear ... that it wasn't going to be a good idea."

Hell Pizza stores would all close by tomorrow night's deadline and go into hibernation. He hoped to retain the vast majority if not all the company's staff thanks to the Government's wage subsidy, but said it would depend on how long the lockdown lasted.

In a statement, a Domino's spokesman said the company had provided food to those who needed it on the frontline in many natural disasters and crisis.

"It's clear from the overwhelming response from the community this morning that customers appreciate this gesture and we are eager to play our part.

"Providing delivered food, safely, during this crisis can help with social distancing and reduce crowds at supermarkets. We recognise that is a significant responsibility and, provided the Government and our customers are willing for us to continue, we will do our part."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website