Business uncertainty with covid restrictions

Bob McDonald owner of Health 2000 Ashburton.

The move to Alert Level 2 has bought a measure of stability to local businesses, but after weeks of being in Level 4 and 3 some are still on the brink, business owner Bob McDonald says.

Mr McDonald, owner of Health 2000, thought the South Island had been harshly treated with what he called unnecessarily high alert levels.

“We haven’t had a case down here and have had the same restrictions as Auckland, we should have gone to Level 3 after the first week, and we should have been in Level 2 last week.

“It is pretty shitty to be fair, no-one makes money in Level 3 it’s just really hard, we’ve all been told how bad it is for the last month so people are quite nervous I think.

“Then the council decide to shut the road down, that’s bloody handy,” he said.

Mr McDonald feels for his fellow business owners particularly the hospitality industry.

“The hospitality guys are the ones I am concerned for, they have at least another two weeks, even Level 2 is really hard work for them, in Level 2 for us it pretty much business as usual, there is still contact tracing, but people can get around.”

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce (CECC) chief executive Leeann Watson said lockdown impacted businesses in different ways depending on the sector.

“Many businesses can operate remotely, although getting teams to operate remotely has its fair share of challenges, we’ve done it quite a lot in the last decade in Canterbury with the various crises we have faced, so businesses are pretty good at setting their team up quickly and being agile.

“We have to acknowledge there are plenty of businesses that can’t work from home like manufacturing and hospitality, they are the ones who are most impacted during lockdown,” Ms Watson said.

The CECC run a covid business help line which had received over 1200 calls this lockdown.

“A lot of calls are around what can we do at Alert Level 3, who’s an essential business etc.”

Ms Watson said it wasn’t necessarily lack of information that prompted calls from business owners, it was more they wanted to talk to someone about their particular situation.

“When people go into a crisis you can have all the information out there, but people want to pick up the phone and speak to a human.

“I think that is a vital role that we provide.”

As well as the helpline the CECC run webinar’s for businesses, the first on financial support had 2220 people register within 24 hours.

“That gives you an indication of the thirst for knowledge around this.”

The light at the end of the tunnel is the hope that there will be a repeat of the buying surge that happened when the 2020 lockdown lifted.

“You get that pent-up demand where people haven’t been able to buy things, combined with the strong push to buy local, that will offset some of the pain of not being able to trade.”

The CECC covid helpline is 0800 5050 96.

By Daniel Tobin