Rotorua business leaders believe the Government's extended wage subsidy will be vital in the coming weeks while there are fears the two people who tested positive for Covid-19 in Tokoroa attended a Rotorua event last weekend.
Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the country would remain at alert level 2 until 11.59pm on August 26. Auckland will remain at level 3.
"There is nothing to suggest we need to move to a level 4 lockdown at this stage," she told media.
She also announced the Government would extend the wage subsidy to protect jobs. The details of the subsidy are still to be finalised.
Reacting to news the region would remain at level 2, Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia said it could have been worse.
"Remaining at level 2 is better than remaining at level 3 but it will still provide some difficulties for businesses that are restricted.
"Some restaurants can switch to pickup or delivery but some can't and bars in particular will have some difficulties."
He said while the country awaited the details of the extended wage subsidy, accommodation providers, in particular, had experienced a serious downturn in business with many cancellations in the past 48 hours.
"The wage subsidy will be essential to keep workers employed."
Redwoods Treewalk co-founder and managing director Bruce Thomasen said it was "absolutely great news" Rotorua was not moving to alert level 3 or 4.
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"To be able to operate and have some cashflow coming through - that's brilliant."
He said Aucklanders made up 50 per cent of domestic visitors to the business, "so obviously that's going to slow down" but the extension of the wage subsidy was "good news".
"The important thing now is everybody keeping their jobs ... our staff are someone else's customers."
In a Lakes District Health Board meeting yesterday afternoon, chief executive Nick Saville-Wood said the positive Covid-19 cases in Tokoroa had caused "a little bit of concern" as it was likely those people were also in Rotorua last weekend at a Pasifika event.
"We have put on an additional clinic … at the events centre and we have encouraged the Pasifika community to come and be swabbed."
The important thing now is everybody keeping their jobs.
Further information on the event, including if it was public or private and how many people attended, was not available but the director general of health confirmed interviews were being conducted by the Ministry of Health to determine the Tokoroa cases' recent movements.
Board members also heard concerns over testing station capabilities with at least 1105 people being tested for Covid-19 in Rotorua in the past two days - more than the first month of level 4 lockdown.
Saville-Wood said at the meeting that the two testing centres in Rotorua had a "torrid start" and he didn't believe the pressure on testing stations would reduce.
A Lakes District Health Board spokeswoman earlier confirmed to the Rotorua Daily Post that 1595 tests were taken in Rotorua and Taupō between March 26 to April 27, compared to an "unprecedented" amount in recent days.
"In two days [Wednesday and Thursday] 1105 people have been tested at our two permanent centres and that's without the confirmed test numbers for Tunohopu Marae and the Stadium," the spokeswoman said.
Resourcing difficulties were the cause of a lack of another testing station in Rotorua, the health board confirmed.
General practices were also under huge strain trying to meet the high demand for tests.
After the announcement, Rotorua Principal's Association president Rawiri Wihapi said he and his school staff at Mokoia Intermediate were ecstatic with the news, although they were prepared for the worst.
"We had sent out hard packs this afternoon to those students who felt it hard to engage at alert level 3 and 4 last time and made our parents aware of that.
"So it is back to work as normal on Monday which is good for us."
He said there were some students who had been kept at home during alert level 2 but he knew principals across Rotorua had the right level 2 protocols in place to ensure students would be safe at school.
"We've been through it all before, so we are better prepared for this, and if it was to move to level 3."
Andrew Wilson, the interim chief executive of Destination Rotorua, said the Government's response had been quick.
He hoped it would "stop the spread of the virus and ensure that Aucklanders can begin to travel again as soon as possible".
"While public safety is the number one priority, the impact on Rotorua's visitor numbers from the extension of the current alert settings in Auckland will remain a concern for many local businesses."
Yesterday director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced there were 12 new confirmed cases of Covid in the community and one probable case.
One of the 13 cases is in hospital. All of the new cases are linked to the existing cluster, although one - the person in Auckland Hospital - is still under investigation but it is not yet cause for concern.
There are 30 active cases connected to the recent outbreak.
Elected officials react
Rotorua MP Todd McClay
Rotorua MP Todd McClay said the most important message to the people of Rotorua was to "follow the advice of our health professionals as closely as they can".
"We know one of the people with the virus has been to Rotorua so anyone with any sign of a symptom at all should get tested. I know the amount of testing has increased over the previous days so there are now reports of people wanting to be tested who can't be.
"We need to make sure the Government is making sure every resource is made available to the people of Rotorua so we can ensure this virus hasn't gotten into our community and local people are safe."
McClay said economically, Auckland remaining in level 3 would affect the entire country.
"It's going to be very challenging for local businesses around how they survive once the wage subsidy is lifted. That's a direct result of the economic stress they were put under during the previous lockdown. If Rotorua was to move towards a level 3, then I fear very many more people may lose their jobs and businesses won't survive.
"In the meantime, people need to follow the rules and be as cautious as they can. It's really important we think of health and safety so we avoid the need of any further restrictions in Rotorua."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said it was a relief to remain at alert level 2 but by no means reason to become complacent.
"I've relieved at this precautionary approach. I think we must always be mindful of alert level 3, Auckland reminds us of that, but the way they've been evidence-based and then taken this short and hard approach based on the evidence is very reassuring."
Chadwick urged the Rotorua community to continue getting tested for Covid-19 when showing symptoms, contact tracing, social distancing and maintain safe hygiene practices.
She said it would be crucial to support one another, something which the people of Rotorua were "amazing" at.
"There is anxiety out there, it's very, very unsettling. Our business community is boxing on but they're very worried. It's a tough time for everybody.
"Staying in level 2 is a good thing [economically] but it's still too early to know what the impact is. The other aspect, especially for our domestic tourism, is Auckland remaining in level 3. That we are very aware of but I just think we need to carry on supporting one another and preparing for whatever might happen in the future."
Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey did not want to comment.