In the first week of October last year it was widely reported that two Covid positive people had visited Northland resulting in the region's alert level being raised from 2 to 3 where Northland remained for 11 days.
It was also reported that they were unco-operative with authorities which the Prime Minister described as irresponsible, dangerous and extraordinarily frustrating.
This month authorities have determined that the two will not face charges around the documentation and method of entry into the Northland region.
These being the facts as we best understand them, what was the economic impact and what are the learnings that might manage similar situations in the future?
Every region has suffered the consequences of Covid be it economic, social, health education or law and order to name a few.
What was unusual in the Northland situation was the raising of a region-wide alert level around two specific people and their failure to co-operate.
Many who breached Covid restrictions subsequently did everything they could to remedy their actions by way of assisting authorities. These two people did not.
I asked the Government what the economic impact was for those 11 days.
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The Minister of Finance wrote to me saying the economic impact on Northland GDP for 11 days of the raised alert level arising from the two Covid positive people was $20 million.
This is a substantial amount and cold comfort for Northland businesses that closed or regressed even further over those 11 days due to the tighter alert level restrictions.
What did we learn from these 11 days that might give a better account next time?
Many people have commented around the lack of information from officials. Even with unco-operative actors reducing information it is not clear that communications were provided to the public in an open and timely manner which also created a vacuum for unhelpful speculation and rumour.
What to do with unco-operative people?
It will be for those in justice and the law to contemplate if suitable legislation is in place. On a more basic level however I believe the right actions are grounded more on teaching and reinforcing the social contract that we have with each other for respect, care and contribution to the common good.
Reply 7065 (2022) has been answered [to Dr Shane Reti 23 March 2022]
Portfolio: Finance (Hon Grant Robertson)
Question: What was, if any, the estimated financial burden to Northland businesses, due to the October 2021 Northland snap lockdown?
Reply: Northland moved from alert level 2 to alert Level 3 at 11.59pm on 8 October 2021, and remained there until 11.59pm on 19 October 2021 (11 days in total) before dropping back to alert Level 2. Based on Treasury estimates at the time, this is estimated to have resulted in foregone economic activity – as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – of approximately $20 million compared to remaining at alert level 2 over this 11-day period. While it is not possible to break this down to the period of alert level 3 noted in the member's question, in the month of October 2021 Northland businesses received approximately $22m in wage subsidy support and $9.6m in resurgence support payments.