COVID-19 - Operating Your Business at Alert Level 2 - MBP Advisors + Accountants

The government has announced what COVID-19 Alert Level 2 will look like for New Zealand.  The decision to shift to Level 2 is yet to be made.  Cabinet meets on Monday to decide if, and when, the shift to Level 2 will occur.  However, all indications are that Level 2 will begin from next Wednesday, but the Prime Minister has signaled that Level 2 may be phased in over a period of time to reduce the associated risks.

The framework for Level 2 significantly removes many of the strictest restrictions of COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 & 4 which will be a much-welcomed relief for our collective sanity and a major boost for the economy.  The changes resemble a first step towards something like a return to ‘normal’. However, it isunlikely we will return to a true ‘normal’ until COVID-19 is a distant memory and a vaccine is available. The road ahead is long and we are truly only just starting the journey.

Like the shift to level 3, it is fair to expect an initial rush of people wanting to get out and spend. Be prepared to manage an influx of orders or customers, you don;t want your restaurant, cafe or store to be the reason we get kicked back into Level 3 or be shamed in the national media for any failings.

Basic Principles for Alert Level 2

Level 2 was described by the Prime Minister as a safe reopening of the economy.  The fundamental principles include:

  • People should stay at home if they are sick (as you always should!); and
  • Anyone with any cold or flu symptoms should be tested; and
  • Enhanced hygiene measures need to be in place (regular cleaning of high touch surfaces, etc); and
  • Contacts need to be traceable (i.e. a guest register will be required for somewhere that strangers can be in contact with each other); and
  • Social distancing (2m) remains for contact with strangers, but can be somewhat relaxed for non-stranger interactions; and
  • Bubbles will be a thing of the past; and
  • No gatherings of more than 100 people (inside and outside); and
  • Contactless payment will no longer be required; and
  • Borders remain closed, but domestic travel can resume.

The Government is working on a nationwide contact tracing technology that will be based on QR codes, but it does not sound like that will be ready in time for the shift to Level 2. As wit most things, you’re better to have a plan for your own business rather than waiting on the government.

What Alert Level 2 Means for Businesses

If businesses can safely trade within the Level 2 framework, they will be able to do so.   The shift to Level 2 will provide the first opportunity to trade for about 7 weeks for many businesses, including some of the hardest hit industries.

Like the shift to level 3, it is fair to expect that there will be an initial rush of people wanting to get out and spend.  Consumer confidence is extremely low, so consumer spending will almost certainly fall to far lower than normal levels at some point after this initial rush.  Therefore, businesses will want to make sure they are prepared and can reopen safely in those first few days.

The Prime Minister today described how certain industries will be able to operate.  Here is a brief summary:

Retail – can trade with enhanced hygiene measures, especially for high touch surfaces.  Numbers of customers in the store may need to be managed for larger retailers to ensure social distancing.

Hospitality – Unsurprisingly hospitality has the toughest requirements.  A hospitality venue will be subject to the “3 S’s”:

  • Seated – patrons must be seated.
  • Separated – there must be physical distancing between the tables.
  • Single server – each table must be served at the table by a single server.

These requirements may mean that it is impractical or uneconomical for certain hospitality venues to reopen at Level 2. This specifically applies to some bars and nightclubs. However, some restaurants will also not be able to seat a viable number of patrons or will simply not have the required number of staff to enable single server service per table.

Hairdressers and beauty salons – can resume seeing customers but will need to wear personal protection equipment due to the prolonged close proximity to customers. Masks or facial shields are the key items to be worn. Regular hand washing with soap and water is more practical and effective than gloves in many instances.

Sport and recreation – Gyms, pools, parks and museums etc can all reopen, subject to necessary precautions.

Sports can resume on a case by case basis.  A domestic rugby and netball competition will start as soon as possible.

Education – Can resume subject to necessary precautions.  Schools will resume the first Monday after the announcement.

Cleaning is key for all businesses. We recommend bathrooms and high touch surfaces are cleaned as frequently as possible. Tills/EFTPOS machines should be sanitised after contact payments, hands should be washed at least every 15 minutes and bathrooms should be cleaned as often as practicable given their levels of use.

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