Ella Bates-Hermans / Stuff
Mask-wearing has “fallen off a cliff” in recent weeks, according to Retail NZ.
Retail and hospitality businesses are relieved that the move to red light setting is not being considered at this time.
But with mask-wearing having “fallen off a cliff”, Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford is encouraging shoppers who don’t want to wear one to stay away from stores.
Chief Health Officer Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Covid-19 Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall and Director of Health NZ Margie Apa announced an update to the plan and guidelines on Thursday afternoon. government regarding Covid-19.
New Zealand would remain on the amber light, emphasizing mask-wearing and vaccinations and expanding access to free RATs.
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“These measures need to be put in place to protect vulnerable members of our community, our healthcare system and I might add our businesses and our economy as well,” Bloomfield said.
“Using the mask should be like wearing a seatbelt.”
Covid-19 Response Minister Ayesha Verrall talks about mask use.
There had been a decline in the use of masks, particularly in supermarkets, Bloomfield said.
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said the fact there was no substantial change to the settings was “good news”.
“Retail NZ continues to encourage customers to wear masks when shopping, in line with government guidance.”
However, Harford said the government has yet to address and resolve a loophole where almost anyone can declare themselves exempt from the mask requirement “for just about any reason”.
“Feedback from our members suggests that mask use has fallen off a cliff in recent weeks, and there is continued abuse by retail workers when asking customers to mask up.
“If customers really don’t want to wear a mask in a retail store, we encourage them to shop online,” he said.
More than 18,000 people have received mask exemptions, and in the past two years the Human Rights Commission has received 855 complaints about mask exemptions.
Wellingtonian Rosina Radford said she was sworn in by retailers and members of the public and refused service for not wearing a mask, despite an exception for asthma and eczema.
Verrall said government and health officials have assessed whether going through a red light will help stop the spread of Covid.
But the use of masks, vaccinations and testing were the best defense, she said.
“We have to balance restrictions with practicality and efficiency.
“Now is not the time to stop wearing masks.”
Verrall said the Department of Business Innovation and Jobs would engage with businesses to ensure they were aware of the guidelines for creating safe working environments.
“Our message to businesses is simple, if you want to reduce the risk of your employees and customers getting sick, follow these public health tips. You are more likely to keep your doors open during the winter.
Restaurant NZ general manager Marisa Bidois said she was relieved there was no switch to red light setting, which would have had a “significant impact on our businesses”.
She reminded restaurateurs of the importance of mask use in their establishments as an important tool in their kit to keep staff and customers safe.