Spark has temporarily closed three stores. And, along with Vodafone NZ, it warns other closures could follow as the telcos grapple with the impact of the Covid-19.

"With the Government's changes to border controls we have decided to close our retail stores at Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown airports for now," a Spark spokeswoman told the Herald this morning.

"We will continue to follow the advice of the Government and may choose to close stores if physical distancing requirements increase or our staffing levels are impacted."

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All of the telco's stores have introduced social-distancing policies, and are disinfecting through the day.

A spokeswoman for 2degrees said, "Like anyone with a major retail footprint, stores might be temporarily closed because we are short-staffed due to our cautious approach to any staff sickness at this time."

Vodafone NZ hit by India lockdown

Earlier today, Vodafone NZ warned of possible store closures as the Covid-19 situation escalates.

The telco is also pointing people to online and app-based support as a call centre operation it uses in India has been hit by that country's coronavirus lockdown.

"From a retail store perspective, depending on how the situation evolves we may need to close specific stores to deal with staff shortages due to Vodafone NZ asking certain staff to self-isolate in our ultra-cautious approach to Covid-19," Vodafone NZ customer operations director Antony Welton said.

"Our greatest focus has to be the safety and wellbeing of our team – so we will continue to prioritise this and are unapologetically taking a conservative approach to health matters.

Vodafone NZ repatriated support to New Zealand after an Egyptian call centre it was using at the time was closed by the Arab Spring uprising - only to offshore part of its helpdesk operation again last year.

Earlier this week, Spark warned about possible delays due to call centres in Manila being closed by Covid-19 lockdowns. Today, a spokeswoman said the telco was managing help-call volumes by redeploying a number of NZ staff to helpdesk duty.


2degrees and Vocus (owner of Orcon and Slingshot) both have all-NZ call centre operations. Shortly before outbreak, Vocus had introduced a new flex arrangement that allowed call centre staff to work from home.

How corporate office teams are affected

Earlier this month, Vodafone sent a majority of its 2000 staff home for a remote working drill.

Yesterday, spokeswoman Nicky Preston updated: "We're now on a 50/50 remote-working team split, in a bid to respond to the ever-changing situation with Covid-19.

"From Wednesday this week, half of our teams have been working from home in a week on/week off rotation running Wednesday to Tuesday, designed so people can be in the office for a few days each week but we can also practice social distancing.

"We've been asking our staff to shift physical meetings to digital collaboration tools, such as video conferencing on Skype, and making phone calls instead of emailing for urgent decisions. This has been going well so far."

Spark has split its teams so some are in the office and some are at home, while 2degrees has staff working on alternate days.

Home-grown IT services giant Datacom, which has its heaviest concentration of staff in Auckland, has taken the most extreme step so far. A spokesman said it would have 90 per cent of its NZ-based staff, or some 3500 people, working from home from Monday.

Chorus said on Friday it had recorded the first "noticeable" spike in daytime traffic as more and more New Zealanders worked from home.

However, the network operator said our telecommunications systems were well-prepared and could cope with three times the traffic registered yesterday.

2degrees could not be immediately reached for comment.