A Northland business leader is questioning the rationale behind delayed opening of bars under level 2 lockdown, saying comparing the region with other bigger cities in New Zealand or elsewhere was simply wrong.
Stephen Smith, chief executive of Northland Chamber of Commerce, was reacting to the Government's decision to re-open bars from May 21 while allowing cafes and restaurants, retailers, gyms, playgrounds, and cinemas to open from today and schools from next week.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told New Zealanders on Monday that bars would have to wait until May 21 as they posed the most risk.
She cited the example of South Korea which opened bars but then closed them again after one person created an outbreak of 40 people and 1500 tests.
Smith said the comparison was devoid of logic.
"Such comparison is extremely harsh. I do despair some of the decision making . . . it's not cookie-cutter cut-and-paste because New Zealand is not South Korea. They have a much bigger population than us.
"Similarly, Whangārei is not Auckland as they have a larger population than us. Originally, the Government was talking about lifting restrictions in certain regions so why not do it when there's clear evidence that we've had far fewer infections than bigger centres," Smith said.
"Talk to the Whangārei Hospital, there's nobody there with Covid-19, so we've had less direct impact. Give us some credit and let's get on with our work."
Smith said the decision-makers should realise some businesses in the hospitality sector may struggle to re-open due to the impact of Covid-19 and to make them wait another week to re-open was a double blow.
The Government also came under fire from John Maurice, owner of Kaikohe's Bank Bar and Northland chairman of Hospitality NZ, who questioned why bars were being singled out as they were similar to restaurants and cafes.
Bars will be able to open with all the requirements, including that seating must be provided, there must be space between tables, and there mustn't be multiple wait staff serving a single table.
Ardern had said although the Government had put in place measures and expectations to make all hospitality businesses as safe as possible, the few extra days gave the authorities a chance to lock in the data from level 3 and feel more secure that we were ready for this move.